ATLANTA - Fulton County had $21 million in federal funds that could have been spent on jail expansion.
Lawmakers three years ago decided not to take that action.
The "no" vote in 2020 is getting a second look in light of a decision on Wednesday by the same board -- the Fulton County Commission.
Settlement reached for family of Lashawn Thompson
A legal settlement totaling $4 million was approved for survivors of an inmate whose body was ravaged by insects.
Fulton County commissioners voted unanimously this week to award the family of Lashawn Thompson $4 million in his death.
Thompson was a 35-year-old man from Winter Haven, Florida.
On June 12, 2022, he was arrested in Georgia for misdemeanor simple battery and was being held at the Fulton County Jail since he was unable to make the $2,500 bail.
He was later transferred to the psychiatric wing of the jail due to mental health issues. Three months later, he was found dead in a dirty jail cell after reportedly being attacked by insects and bedbugs, according to the family's legal team.
Michael Harper, the attorney who has been representing Thompson’s family, said records show the detention officers and medical staff at the jail noticed Thompson's deteriorating health, but did nothing to help him, leading to his untimely death.
He shared photos of the state of the cell Thompson was being held in.
Thompson's family told the media they weren't aware their family member was in the facility until they were contacted by jail officials about his death.
Why did the board refuse federal funding for the Fulton County Jail
Now, the jail project that did not get the green light back in 2020 would have expanded and segregated health facilities for inmates at the jail. That money would have paid for beds for up to 120 prisoners.
"Yes, it was a missed opportunity," said Charles Rambo, a retired sheriff's supervisor. "It happened back in the ‘defund the police’ conversation with all the protests over the George Floyd killing."
Fulton County Jail (FOX 5)
During that June 2020 meeting, several young people spoke at the commission and complained about targeting millions to improve the jail.
Lee Morris, who was a member of that body in 2020, told his colleagues the jail should be improved.
"I think you will come to regret not taking this action," Morris said.