Media Contact

Aaron Madrid Aksoz, ACLU, Media and Engagement Strategist, [email protected]
Dorrie Toney, ACLU of Georgia, Communications Director, [email protected]

March 15, 2024

FULTON COUNTY, GA — The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Georgia filed suit in Fulton County Superior Court today on behalf of Barred Business against the Fulton County District’s Attorney’s Office, for failing to comply with a court rule that requires the office to keep the chief judge of the Fulton County Superior Court apprised of all unindicted individuals who have been in custody under criminal felony charges for 45 days. 

Atlanta-based Barred Business, is a membership-based nonprofit organization that provides direct services and advocates for better outcomes for formerly incarcerated people. Barred Business alleges that the DA’s failure to follow the court rule—created to protect against prolonged detention without grand jury review—contributes to the delayed processing of criminal cases in Fulton County and results in unindicted individuals needlessly languishing for months, or even years, in Fulton County Jail. 

“People are often stuck languishing in the Fulton County Jail unindicted, waiting for the powers-that-be to finally process their case and give them a chance at freedom. As they sit stranded in the overcrowded and dangerous jail, people lose jobs, precious time with family, and sometimes even their lives,” said Cory Isaacson, legal director, ACLU of Georgia. “All the while, the district attorney's office is failing to do the bare minimum of following the law and tracking and reporting those who are stuck unindicted in the jail, which is needed to remove the bottleneck and reduce overcrowding. Our community deserves better.”

From Barred Business: “We are working to create a just society for all people. Ultimately, accountability is essential for creating a legal system that truly serves the interests of justice and promotes the well-being of all individuals involved. This approach requires a commitment to fairness, equity, and compassion, and a recognition of the intersecting forms of oppression that affect justice impacted people within the legal system.”

The lawsuit relies on a 2023 ACLU of Georgia report, Breaking the Cycle: Exploring Alternatives to a New Jail,” that found that the significant number of people held without indictment at the Fulton County Jail is a major driver of overcrowding. As of October 2023, 1,114 individuals, or 37 percent of the total Fulton County Jail population, were detained while unindicted. Of those unindicted individuals, a total of 503, or 45.2 percent, were in custody for 90 days or more. And of those 503 people, 207 have been held in the jail, without indictment, for over six months.

“It’s vital to acknowledge that there are names and faces behind all of these numbers—people not only jailed but also trapped in this procedural wasteland,”said Julian Clark, staff attorney with the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project. “The Fulton County DA’s office has been dragging their feet on formally charging and indicting people for far too long and it’s leading to devastating consequences. People who are presumed innocent under the law are needlessly jailed in deplorable conditions while they lose jobs, face eviction from their homes, and their families, friends, and communities suffer in their absence.” 

The lawsuit seeks to enforce the District Attorney’s reporting requirement so judges have notice of the Fulton County Jail’s pre-indictment population and can take action to facilitate reasonable timelines for indictment and consequently, reduce the dangerous overcrowding in the Fulton County Jail.

The petition is here: