Fulton commissioners approve $1.2M to study cost, location of new jail

Fulton County commissioners on Wednesday approved a $1.2 million contract to study the prospect of a new county jail.

The Rice Street jail has been insufficient almost since the day it opened in 1989. With hundreds of prisoners over the 2,500-prisoner capacity, many inmates are sleeping in common areas.

Days after being elected last year, Sheriff Patrick Labat said the county needed a new jail.

Labat estimated the cost at roughly $400 million to $500 million, adding that the consequence of not building a new facility would be treating people in a less than humane way. And that was before COVID-19 hit the area.

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Alton Adams, Fulton’s deputy chief operating officer in charge of public safety, told commissioners Wednesday that the firm conducting the study (TreanorHL) hasn’t worked with Fulton before but has 2,000 staff across 40 offices, including one in Alpharetta. He said they’ve studied large criminal justice systems in Chicago, Detroit and New York City.

The contractor will assess space/service needs, come up with innovative programming options, find the best location and estimate cost along with financing scenarios, according to Adams. He added that the contractor expects the study to take 9-12 months.

The sheriff and activists alike agree that can’t come soon enough.

Though the jail underwent $1 billion in improvements during the 11 years it was under federal oversight, Labat has said the jail can’t handle Fulton’s present or future.

He wants to design a jail with diversion and re-entry services, which are ideas that have garnered bi-partisan support.

Labat will need all the support he can get considering that, on the low end, a new jail would be roughly equal the amount Cobb County spent to help build the Braves a ballpark.