Board committee proposes deal to lease 700 Atlanta prison beds to Fulton
Labat, who did not attend the committee meeting or speak, has been trying to gain access to space at the city’s detention center since he took office last year, amid severe overcrowding at the county jail that forces hundreds of people to sleep on the floor each night. . Conditions at the county jail have been the subject of lawsuits dating back decades.
The sheriff told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last week that the four-year deal would give the county time to build a new jail and relieve overcrowding. Council member Liliana Bakhtiari said she has yet to see concrete evidence from the county on how it plans to do this, and asked why a deal struck last year to house hundreds of Fulton inmates in Cobb County had not solved the problem.
Michael Julian Bond, who sponsored the measure, said the city has a responsibility to work to improve conditions for citizens held in poor conditions.
“We desperately need to act,” he said. “If we are able to resolve a problem…in Fulton County, we must do so immediately.”
Earlier in the meeting, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens made a rare appearance before the committee to speak in support of the deal, describing it as a ‘humanitarian response’ to the situation at county facilities. .
“We are not in the prison business. I don’t want to be in the prison sector for long,” Dickens said. “Nevertheless, we end up where we are today.”
He reiterated his desire to see the 11-story facility completely revamped after the deal closes. He said his administration plans to issue a request for information to contractors to provide potential solutions for transforming the center into a facility that provides services to people facing homelessness or behavioral health issues.
Although Dickens said he wanted to use proceeds from the deal to help fund homelessness and diversion services, he did not address the recent statement from the Policing Alternatives and Diversion initiative. stating that “funding any of these activities with revenue generated from the incarceration of the same people we seek to help is inconsistent with our mission as well as our values.
Local activists have lobbied for years for the closure of the city’s detention center, which houses fewer than 50 detainees a night. Most are held for minor, non-violent offences.
Ahead of Monday’s meeting, the Southern Center for Human Rights held a press conference to denounce the deal. Lawyers said the agreement furthers county interests and opens the door for the sheriff to house county inmates at the detention center beyond four years. The lease stipulates that if the county keeps inmates on city premises for more than four years, the county’s charge would triple to $150 per person per day, which Dickens said was a stiff penalty meant to hold Responsible Fulton.
The Southern Center has suggested a number of administrative steps the county can take to reduce the number of people incarcerated in its jail. Tiffany Roberts, the organization’s public policy director, said the mayor’s promise to repurpose the prison after four years is “not rock solid”, since his term will end by 2026, and he doesn’t a second term is not guaranteed.
“Fulton County has been doing this for decades,” Roberts said. “They fill up the jail, they outsource incarcerated people, a judge stops breathing down their neck, then they fill up the jail again. So why would the mayor choose to try something we’ve seen ineffective? »
— Staff reporter Ben Brasch contributed to this report.