Group takes court action against Fulton County over jail conditions

The Southern Center for Human Rights has asked a federal judge to find Fulton County in contempt of court for failing to keep its jail properly staffed and the inmate population at safe levels.

The center filed papers in federal court Thursday morning laying out its frustration and alleging that the county has regressed from most of the improvements it had made under an 8-year-old consent order the group reached with the county to settle a lawsuit describing dirty and dangerous jail conditions.

The center has asked Senior U.S. District Judge Marvin Shoob to hold a hearing and to fine the county for each day it falls short of the minimum standards required by the consent order.

A jail expert assigned to oversee the county’s progress in improving conditions has complained repeatedly and for years that the jail is not staffed at levels that make it safe for inmates and employees. Court monitor Calvin Lightfoot also has said inmates have free run of their cellblocks because the locks are inadequate. In June, the County Commission awarded a $4.8 million contract to replace almost 1,400 locks.

In the court papers filed Thursday, the center said the jail has been consistently over the population cap Shoob set at 2,500. Now, it says, there aren’t enough beds for every inmate, forcing hundreds of them to sleep on the floor. On 50 separate days in July and August, inmates were sleeping on the jail’s floor, and as recently as last week there were 225 men without beds.

The center also blames the overcrowding and inadequate staffing for violence in the cellblocks. One inmate wrote in a sworn statement that he came to the rescue of a female officer when other men attacked her.

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