ATLANTA—The ACLU of Georgia sent a letter to Fulton County Commissioners today, urging them to stop pursuing the construction of a $2 billion jail and instead begin taking immediate steps to release people held in detention.
“Action being pursued by this Commission—moving down the path toward a new $2 billion jail—is colossal in scope but aimed in the entirely wrong direction. A $2 billion taxpayer bill to lock up even more people—predominantly people who are Black and low-income—is not the solution to deplorable conditions and dangerous overcrowding. The County must instead take immediate action to reduce its jail population and, in turn, to ensure that people in its control are no longer in acute danger,” ACLU of Georgia Legal Director Cory Isaacson said in the letter.
Fulton County's current policies and practices of detaining people longer than necessary continues to have horrendous and sometimes fatal results. As outlined in “There Are Better Solutions: An Analysis of Fulton County’s Jail Population Data, 2022,” building an expensive new jail to house more people is not the answer. Amid gruesome details about the death of 35-year-old Lashawn Thompson in September, and ongoing talks on the Fulton County Jail and Criminal Justice Complex, we urge officials to focus on drastically reducing the jail population.
Between 2009 and October 2022, 64 people held in the Fulton County Jail died, the highest total for any jail in Georgia during that time, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Three people imprisoned there died in 2021; a total of 14 people detained by the Fulton County Sheriff died last year, with 11 of those deaths happening in the final four months of 2022.
Too many people languishing in Fulton County Jail have only a misdemeanor charge, or have not been timely indicted, or are being held on account of their poverty. The Commissioners can alleviate the jails’ injustices and further deaths by demanding Fulton County follow the law.