Fulton sheriff hopes $7M deal with Cobb will relieve jail overcrowding



Fulton County commissioners are expected to consider a $7 million deal to alleviate the historically over-crowded jail by having Cobb County house inmates.

A seven-page agreement is on the Wednesday meeting agenda that spells out the $80 daily charge for housing up to 500 Fulton inmates at Cobb facilities whenever the jail exceeds capacity.

“What I can not do is afford to do nothing,” Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat said after the last commission meeting.

The Fulton jail on Rice Street has essentially been full since it opened in 1989. The overcrowding and other issues caused the federal government to run the jail for 11 years, during which time Fulton taxpayers spent $1 billion getting the jail into compliance.

Labat has said he needs a new facility that he estimates will cost between $400 to $500 million to jail people in a humane way.

Fulton Commission Chairman Robb Pitts said on Monday that he supports the deal with Cobb County.

“The conditions that many inmates face at the Fulton County Jail are nothing short of a humanitarian crisis,” Pitts said. “I will support any measure that provides relief to those inmates forced to stay in overcrowded cells or sleep on the floor.

”Ultimately, the long term solution will be to work through the court backlog, but this could provide much needed short term relief.”

Fulton’s 206,000-case backlog was caused by courts closing to curb the spread of COVID-19, which has only worsened the jail’s overcrowding. County officials plan to spend $75 million of its federal relief money over three years to clear the backlog.

ExploreFulton Sheriff: I’ll lead the negotiations with Atlanta over jail

Since his first days in office, Labat has fought to buy or lease space at the city of Atlanta’s mostly empty detention center. Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms hasn’t been willing to give him the whole space.

Operations at the Cobb County Jail have been heavily criticized under the previous sheriff following the death of several inmates. The GBI has investigated some deaths. The ACLU has chastised jail conditions.

The deal with Cobb lasts six months as soon as it is signed, with three incremental renewal options.

The Fulton County Commission meets at 10 a.m. inside Assembly Hall at 141 Pryor St. in downtown Atlanta.