Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat says lives are in danger if inmates at the Fulton County Jail aren’t transferred somewhere else.
Sheriff Labat says eight inmates have died in the overcrowded jail in 2022. He says if things don’t change, that number could grow.
Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Mark Winne learned that there are currently 489 inmates sleeping in “boats” on the floor of the Fulton County Jail. Over at the Atlanta Detention Center, only 48 of the 1,314 beds are occupied.
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“I am moving in a space where people’s lives are in danger. Since you met last, we had someone openly murdered in our facility,” Labat told the Atlanta City Council during its Monday night meeting.
Labat told the council that the overcrowded and understaffed jail could be a life or death situation for thousands of people, but that he believes they can speed up a potential fix.
“I talked to our county attorney to see what are our options if we believe that there’s an emergency. One of them is to go to court, which is still on the table,” Fulton County Commission Chair Robb Pitts told Winne.
Sheriff’s Office Lt. Col. Adam Lee says eight inmates have died this year from a combination of medical issues, suicide and homicide.
“Each of us, when we’re campaigning, ask people to go vote, and don’t delay and do it. So why would we delay anything when it comes to people’s lives?” Labat questioned the council on Monday evening.
Atlanta City Council Public Safety Vice Chair Byron Amos says that before they can allow the transfer of inmates, a jail population review needs to be conducted by an independent committee. He adds that, personally, he believes that the review can happen simultaneously with the inmate transfers.
“The genesis of this entire relationship is to put people in a more humane environment, to get people off of the floors and into cots and into cells,” Amos said.
Pitts says that Labat and Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens have had discussions about allowing Fulton County to rent 700 beds from the city’s detention center for a period of up to four years, but nothing has been made official by the council.
Atlanta city officials announced the plans to lease the beds back in August, but the city council has not yet given its approval.
“What’s the problem? The mayor wants it to happen, meaning he wants to give us the keys. We want the keys. The sheriff wants the keys, but there’s a problem with city council on what certain council members are saying,” Pitts explained.
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Labat says he has been told the study should be complete by November 18, but he believes that is still too long to wait.
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