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Criminal Justice

Fulton Jail Study Could be Sidestepped by City Council

The move to bypass a jail population review would enable the county to immediately begin moving inmates into ACDC without having to turn over the requested information.

Fulton County is hoping to begin transferring some inmates from Fulton County Jail to the Atlanta City Detention Center before a jail population study is completed. (Paras Griffin/Getty Images)

There is a new development in the proposed plan to lease space in the Atlanta City Detention Center to Fulton County.

The Public Safety and Legal Administration Committee voted to introduce legislation that would repeal an amendment requiring a jail population review before the agreement can go into effect.

When the City Council voted to lease ACDC to Fulton County, an amendment was included that requires the Justice Policy Board — a collection of local partner organizations and city and county leaders focused on developing arrest and incarceration diversion resources — to complete the review before the county can start moving inmates into the city detention center.

The review will include the number of inmates, why and how long they’re being detained, and whether they were out on bond.

Council members have been split on the issue of requiring the study from the beginning. The vote to add the population review amendment was split 7-7, and council President Doug Shipman had to cast the tie-breaking vote. While some council members say the study is part of their due diligence to act in the city’s best interests, other council members say it is causing unnecessary delays in a dire situation.

At the most recent public safety committee meeting, District 4 council member Jason Dozier, who introduced the amendment to require the study, defended his actions.

“The comment that has been shared in the media that this is a ‘stall tactic’ is alarming considering that this amendment was approved by City Council on August the 15,” he said. “It’s been almost two months — if this goes forward, when we debate this again at full council, it will be over two months since the Fulton County Commission also debated and approved this, and in that two months we could’ve been done with this.”

Dozier is referencing comments made by Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat at last week’s contentious City Council meeting. Labat and Fulton County Commission Chair Robb Pitts asked to allow the county to begin moving inmates into ACDC without the jail population review.

“Can you sit there in good conscience and do nothing, because what I’ve been told we’re not going to even get information back until Nov. 18,” Labat said.

After further discussion from council members on the public safety committee, the legislation — introduced by Michael Julian Bond — passed with five “yes” votes (Bond, Byron Amos, Andrea Boone, Mary Norwood, and Marci Collier Overstreet), one no vote (Keisha Sean Waites) and one abstention (Dustin Hillis). The latter is also the co-chair of the Justice Policy Board.

“The delay in moving people, if you care about criminal justice reform, if you care about human beings, you want this to be enacted as quickly as possible,” Bond said.

The legislation will be debated at the full council meeting next Monday. If it passes, Fulton County can immediately begin transferring inmates from the Union City jail to ACDC.