ATLANTA—The ACLU of Georgia is saddened and disappointed that yet another person in the custody of Fulton County has died. Media reports indicate Noni Battiste-Kosoko, 19, was found dead inside her cell Tuesday evening at the Atlanta City Detention Center. Battiste-Kosoko had been in jail since May 20 on a misdemeanor bench warrant.
“The tragedy of this young woman's death was avoidable,” said Andrea Young, Executive Director of the ACLU of Georgia. “Last fall, we urged Fulton County to implement bail reform and reduce the number of people held in custody while they await the disposition of their charges. Today, we renew this call. Fulton County must stop incarcerating people pre-trial because they are unable to pay bail.”
Last year, the ACLU provided a roadmap for Fulton County to break the cycle of over incarceration and the human rights crisis that exists for those awaiting trial behind bars. We provided evidence based reasons why increasing jail beds by adding space at the Atlanta City Detention Center was woefully inadequate. Since that time, Fulton County has done little to reduce overcrowding, but has instead saddled Fulton taxpayers with a $40,000 daily burden by moving people awaiting trial to detention space outside of Fulton County.
On several occasions last year, the ACLU of Georgia reiterated to Fulton County leaders that those charged with misdemeanors are entitled to bond and it is unconstitutional to hold individuals for simply being unable to afford bond.
“We know and understand that more incarceration does not make our communities safer; we repeatedly told them that expanding space to hold more people would bring about repeated and tragic results,” said Fallon McClure, Deputy Director of Policy & Advocacy, ACLU of Georgia.
The tragedy of Battiste-Kosoko’s death is exactly the human cost of the criminal legal system that is wholly preventable if local leaders care enough to act. We can only continue to hope that those with the ability to stave off these tragedies choose to do something. Meanwhile, we are encouraged by the U.S. Justice Department’s decision to launch a civil rights investigation of conditions in the Fulton County Jail, a different facility that has seen multiple deaths in recent years.