ATLANTA— Today, a coalition of advocacy organizations sent a letter to Fulton County and Atlanta officials, Sheriff Patrick “Pat” Labat, and chief judges of superior, state and magistrate courts to express dismay and concern about the horrid conditions that persist at the Fulton County Jail. The coalition said allowing another jail system to be built, without any accountability for addressing the systemic issues, will continue to expose the county to costly lawsuits that are not only about dilapidated infrastructure.
The groups said they do not support building a new jail when for years now, Fulton County officials have refused to heed advice to reduce the Fulton jail population and bring an end to the inhumane and sometimes fatal conditions detainees experience. Using information published in a September analysis from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Fulton County could, for example, reduce its jail population in part by using solutions provided such as pre-arrest diversion programs for people experiencing poverty, mental health concerns, and substance use.
Rather than spending millions in taxpayer dollars for a new jail, the coalition suggests creating low-income housing, increasing health and mental health services, subsidizing skills training for county residents, and increasing children and senior support programs.
“Atlanta is becoming the Mecca of Mass Incarceration for the people of Atlanta. What we all see every day in the community are people who are in need of affordable housing, livable wages, and mental health support. That’s where the millions of taxpayer dollars should be directed to, not a new bigger cage to hold our own people,” said Robyn Hasan, Executive Director, Women on the Rise Georgia.
“We had hoped that Fulton County leaders would have worked toward implementing the overcrowding solutions we highlighted in our report. The deaths of inmates since that time, especially the deaths that are the result of vermin infestation and staff neglect, highlight exactly why these solutions are necessary. We hope this letter will be a renewed call to action, reminding Fulton County leaders that providing safe and humane jail conditions is their constitutional requirement,” said Fallon McClure, Deputy Director Policy & Advocacy, ACLU of Georgia.
“Fulton County continues to discuss billions of dollars for architecture when it should be addressing the pervasive culture of continuing human rights violations at the jail that have nothing to do with facilities. The Board of Commissioners owes to its constituents the diligence required to address the rights of people in its custody while also adequately funding programs and processes in communities that prevent people from entering the cycle of mass incarceration,” said Tiffany Roberts, Director of the Public Policy Unit at Southern Center for Human Rights.
These groups signed the letter:
Women on the Rise Georgia
Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights
Essie Justice Group
National Alliance on Mental Illness
Rise ReEntry Services
Center for Employment Opportunities
All of Us Or None – Georgia Chapter
Georgia Detention Watch
Legal Action Center
Asian American Advocacy Fund
Southern Center for Human Rights
New Life Second Chance Outreach, Inc.
Color of Change
ACLU of Georgia