Fulton County considers outsourcing to other facilities after deaths of 10 inmates
LISTEN: Fulton County officials are considering rehousing detainees of the fatally overcrowded Fulton County Jail in other Georgia facilities — and as far as Mississippi. GPB's Donna Lowry reports.
The deaths of 10 inmates this year have Fulton County officials looking to outsource to other facilities.
The county is looking at jails in other parts of Georgia and in Mississippi.
At issue is overcrowding.
The 34-year-old facility has a capacity for roughly 1,100 inmates, but Fulton County Commissioner Bob Ellis says there are about three times that number in the lock-up.
Ellis blames the judicial system's backlog of unindicted cases.
"Our court system does not move," Ellis said. "In May, 34% of the people in jail were unindicted. End of July it was 36%. The backlog is growing. You know, you're taking significant more time to dispose of despite significant more funding being provided."
Building a new jail is in the works but will take years.
In the meantime, Ellis said the Fulton County court system needs to get more cases indicted quickly so that the process can begin quicker, so that the jail time is short, so that the population begins to abate and decrease.”
On Aug. 31, Shawndre Delmore, 24. became the sixth inmate to die at the jail since the end of July and the 10th since the beginning of the year.
Delmore's death came five days after a deputy on dinner rounds found Samuel Lawrence, 24, unresponsive in his jail cell on Aug. 26. He had been in the facility for eight months on a $30,000 bond for second-degree arson.
Days before his death, Lawrence sent a 16-page handwritten complaint to federal courts complaining about conditions at the jail.
At a press conference outside Fulton Superior Court, Lawrence's father, Frank Richardson, said he learned of his son's death while going to church for Sunday services. It haunts him that Lawrence did not get help.
"When he was crying out, they turned a deaf ear," Richardson said. "You don't want to bury your children. No one wants to bury their children."
The family's attorney, Kenneth Muhammad, told reporters the family had conducted an independent investigation.
"Preliminary findings in the autopsy report show a bite mark that he complained about where he said that inmates entered his cell and fought," Muhammad said. "And one of them bit him like an animal.”
Sheriff Pat Labat recently admitted violence at the jail is not surprising considering the longstanding, dangerous overcrowding and the crumbling walls of the facility.