Overcrowded Atlanta Jail Raises Justice Concerns

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

In October 2022, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) published a report showing that the Fulton County jail, near Atlanta, Georgia, was holding some 2,892 people, or 301 people more than its official capacity. As a result, hundreds of detained people had been assigned makeshift sleeping arrangements on jail floors. According to the ACLU’s analysis, some 728 of those detained could be released if Fulton County implemented “proven, sustainable solutions to overcrowding.”

As Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg reported for The Appeal, the ACLU study found that 45 percent of the inmates at Fulton County Jail had not been formally charged. Georgia law states: “Any person who is arrested for a crime and who is refused bail shall, within 90 days after the date of confinement, be entitled to have the charge against him or her heard by a grand jury having jurisdiction over the accused person.” Most of the inmates being held were arrested for misdemeanor cases, according to the ACLU, which also found that 90 percent of those held at the Fulton County jail were Black.

The Atlanta City Council came to an agreement with Sheriff Patrick Labat as well as Fulton County to transfer several hundred inmates to the Atlanta City Detention Center, which would alleviate the overpopulation crisis. However, these transfers have been delayed pending a new study by the Justice Policy Board, a joint effort by local governmental agencies and nonprofits to develop alternatives to incarceration for Fulton County and the city of Atlanta. Sheriff Labat said he believed this was a “stall tactic” and that moving the inmates would help solve the overpopulation problem. Justice reform groups and local groups have questioned the proposed transfer as a genuine solution. In line with the ACLU study, they call for the release of hundreds of those detained.

As of October 2022, no major national news outlet has covered the issue of Fulton County’s overpopulated jail. The issue has been the topic of local news reports, including coverage by Atlanta-based news outlets.

Source: Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg, “Nearly Half the People at Crowded Atlanta Jail Haven’t Been Formally Charged With a Crime, ACLU Says,” The Appeal, October 12, 2022.

Student Researcher: Jaden Humble (Salisbury University)

Faculty Evaluator: Jennifer Cox (Salisbury University)