Fulton County Chairman to Atlanta officials: ‘Give us the damn keys to the jail’

October 10, 2022
2 mins read

The Scoop: A dispute between Atlanta leaders and Fulton County government has spurred harsh words from Fulton County Chairman Robb Pitts.

The Issue: The City of Atlanta and Fulton County entered into an agreement in August to ease overcrowding at the Fulton County jail by leasing space at the Atlanta Detention Center. As part of the agreement, Atlanta would allow 700 Fulton County Jail inmates to be housed at the Atlanta Detention Center.

As part of the four-year agreement, Atlanta officials have asked for an analysis of Fulton County’s jail population, a process which could take up to 90 days.

That analysis has drawn the ire of Fulton County officials, including Pitts, who wants to immediately transfer 700 inmates.

Fulton County’s Side of the Story: Pitts is accusing the Atlanta City Council of “fiddling while Rome burns,” noting that the overcrowding crisis is putting Fulton County in “a state of emergency.” Both Pitts and Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat acknowledge that hundreds of inmates are sleeping on the floor at the jail on Rice Street.

Pitts says inmates are making homemade weapons.

Pitts also points out that the majority of inmates were Atlanta residents before being booked into the jail.

“Eighty percent of the inmates in our jail are from Atlanta yet some lawmakers are ignoring this crisis,” Pitts said.

At the time of the initial agreement, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens acknowledged the crisis and said Atlanta was confronted with “a real and immediate crisis of overcrowding at the Fulton County Jail. Many of these detainees are Atlanta residents, and our conscience calls us to act.”

Atlanta’s Side of the Story: Atlanta officials say that while the 90 day review was added to the agreement as an amendment, it was part of the initial agreement and is what the city and county agreed upon.

According to Atlanta City Council member Keisha Sean Waites, says the review is necessary because many of the inmates in the Fulton County Jail are eligible for alternative options.

“Many of the inmates housed at Fulton County’s jail are eligible for Police Alternative Diversion, or PAD, services, including those on minor (non-violent, non-felony) “failure to appear” warrants and those still detained because of court backlogs,” Waites said.

Harsh Words: Pitts released a statement last week that did not mince words about his feelings on the review process.

“Give us the damn keys to the jail,” Pitts said. “We already have ongoing, comprehensive data and have told city leaders that it is readily available to them. Sheriff Pat Labat has outlined the seriousness of this crisis, and we cannot wait a minute longer.”

But Waites accuses the county of trying to sidestep the review requirement in favor of what she calls an “incomplete report analysis.”

“Fulton County must respect the sovereignty of the City’s legislative body and allow the agreed upon process to proceed as required by law,” Waites said.

A Cause for Urgency: In his plea to remove the review requirement, Pitts cites overcrowding as a cause of inmate deaths and said more inmates will die if they are not able to be transferred to Atlanta.

An inmate at the Fulton County Jail died last month in what jail officials called an incident between three inmates.

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