Fulton takes steps to fix problems at county jail
February 03, 2014 12:45 PM | 581 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ATLANTA (AP) — Fulton County officials are taking steps to fix problems at the county jail that they hope will help end federal oversight of the facility.

The county's board of commissioners recently approved a budget for 2014 that includes $2.1 million to send hundreds of inmates to other jails to help ease overcrowding, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. They also added $3.5 million to deal with staffing issues at the jail and other county departments.

Commission Chairman John Eaves tells the newspaper he hopes the steps will convince U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash to end his supervision of the jail by the end of the year.

"It's been a lot of heavy lifting to get to where we are," Eaves said. "We've made it a priority. We've made real progress."

A federal lawsuit in 2004 detailed dirty, dangerous and crowded conditions at the jail, and the county has struggled to meet the conditions set forth in a 2006 agreement to settle that suit. Among those conditions were major renovations, minimum staffing requirements and a limit of 2,500 inmates in the jail.

It has cost Fulton County taxpayers more than $200 million for renovations, outsourcing inmates and other expenses. And the county is now spending $4.8 million to replace locks that weren't secure.

The Southern Center for Human Rights, which filed the federal lawsuit, has asked Thrash to determine whether the county and sheriff are in contempt because of the unsolved problems. The newspaper reports that about 160 inmates were sleeping in temporary bunks as recently as last week.

Eaves said inmates should no longer be sleeping on the floor by Thursday, when hearing in the case is scheduled.

The Fulton County jail has been sued three other times since 1982 over conditions at the jail and inmate care. And it has a history of problems, with conditions at the jail deteriorating each time court supervisions was lifted.

U.S. District Judge Marvin Shoob, who handled the case until recently, threatened in 2011 to put county commissioners in federal prison if they didn't handle significant overcrowding. Commissioners also delayed a vote on the jail locks before finally agreeing to replace them.

With hundreds of inmates sleeping on the floor and some roaming the jail freely because the locks weren't fixed, the Southern Center in October asked Thrash to hold the county and sheriff in contempt.

Commissioners and the sheriff blamed each other, the newspaper reported. Thrash called for a hearing Thursday to figure it out.

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Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com



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