FULTON COUNTY, Ga. - Georgia leaders convened for their inaugural subcommittee meeting to address the conditions at the Fulton County Jail on Thursday morning. Mounting concerns have arisen in the wake of 10 deaths in jail custody this year, with the Justice Department also launching an investigation into the matter.
"Every single presenter outlined for us just how difficult it is for sheriff's offices across the country," Senator Sonya Halpern, who chairs the Fulton County Delegation, told reporters following the hearing.
State leaders, including the lieutenant governor and state senators, established the subcommittee after the U.S. Justice Department launched an inquiry into conditions at the Rice Street facility earlier this year. Their primary objective is to identify solutions to longstanding issues within the facility.
Officials with the Fulton County Sheriff's Office (FCSO) detailed the issues of overcrowding, unsanitary conditions contributing to recent deaths and violence at the jail.
The FCSO told lawmakers that the Fulton County Jail's plumbing, heating and cooling system, electrical systems, the doors and locking mechanisms and physical structure are collapsing under the weight of severe overcrowding.
"The physical plant has become so dilapidated that the inmates are able to create weapons by reaching into the walls, using broken flooring, electrical coverings pipes, et cetera to create makeshift weapons," explained Fulton County Jail Chief Legal Counsel Amelia Joiner.
Security was increased at the Fulton County Jail after several holes were found in the fencing on June 2, 2023. (FOX 5)
Joiner said jail overcrowding contributes to the violent incidents that have occurred at the facility. There have been 10 death at the jail since January and 68 assaults on staff.
"As of Nov. 1, 2023, we had 293 stabbings, we confiscated 1,186 shanks, there were 337 fights, there were 922 assaults inmates on other inmates," said Joiner.
Jail officials also detailed the strain of caring for detainees with medical and mental health issues.
Approximately 1,000 inmates suffer from some form of severe or significant mental illness.
Committee members have toured the jail and are now gathering information as they work to come up with possible solutions.
For several months, there has been an escalating call for action concerning the Fulton County Jail, with local leaders characterizing the situation as a crisis.
Among the 10 individuals who have died in jail custody this year, one case that gained attention was that of LaShawn Thompson. Thompson was initially arrested on a misdemeanor charge and held in the jail. His body would later be discovered covered in insects.
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These rising concerns prompted state lawmakers to become involved in addressing the situation. State leaders have already conducted visits to the jail as part of their ongoing investigation.