More people died in Atlanta penitentiary than any prison in the US, report finds.

A scathing U.S. Department of Justice report criticized the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary for its lack of accessible medical equipment and functioning security cameras.
A 31-year-old federal inmate died Monday morning after he was found unresponsive at the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta, authorities said.

Credit: File photo

Credit: File photo

A 31-year-old federal inmate died Monday morning after he was found unresponsive at the United States Penitentiary in Atlanta, authorities said.

A new report broadly criticizing the management and practices of the United States Bureau of Prisons found that the federal prison in Atlanta saw more inmate deaths than any prison in the country over the report’s eight-year analysis period.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s inspector general report chronicled 17 inmate deaths in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary between 2014 and 2021 and pins the loss of life on a lack of adequate medical equipment and function cameras, among other problems. The review does not reveal the causes of death for the Atlanta inmates but notes that suicides made up 187 of 344 total deaths across the federal prison system during that period.

The report places blame squarely on the troubled federal prison agency and points to a laundry list of failures including understaffing, inadequate access to medical equipment, poor training and the prevalence of contraband drugs and weapons, which the report found contributed to nearly one-third of the inmate deaths.

The Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, in particular, did not have adequate access to heart defibrillators and lacked functional security cameras which created blind spots throughout the facility, the report notes.

More than half of the prison’s cameras were either inoperable or not working properly in 2020, the report found. The authors acknowledge that the facility began a series of infrastructure and security improvements in 2021. As of September 2023, more than 40% of the Atlanta prison’s new digital cameras have been installed, the report said.

The report’s findings follow years of reports of lax security and rampant corruption throughout the facility, which has been operating in southeast Atlanta for more than a century.

Stories and rumors had long swirled about the prison’s raucous parties and free-flowing contraband. In 2021, the prison transferred about 1,100 inmates out of the facility and banned several prison staffers after after investigators discovered a “prevalence of narcotics and cellular devices” being used by inmates and put the prison on an extended lockdown.

A year later, Georgia U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff held a congressional panel which revealed a persistent rat infestation, sewage backups and mold.

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff speaks to press after an inspection of U.S. Penitentiary Atlanta in Atlanta on Wednesday, October 26, 2022. In September Ossoff introduced legislation to overhaul federal prison oversight, following an investigation into the prison. (Arvin Temkar /


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He later introduced federal legislation calling for an additional layer of oversight over the federal prison system and toured the facility, noting some improvements. Ossoff’s legislation did not ultimately become law.

In a written response attached to the report, Bureau of Prisons Director Collette Peters acknowledged many of the problems laid out in the inspector general’s report and assured the DOJ it would shore up deficiencies and enhance it’s policies and practice to comply with the recommendations.

The report is another data point in the challenges facing jails and prisons across the country.

An investigative series published by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last year exposed extensive corruption within the state prison system in Georgia. The AJC’s reporting found a pattern of corrupt employees, widespread drug use and drug dealing inside state prisons, record homicides and large criminal enterprises that operate inside state prisons — and victimize people on the outside — with the help of contraband cellphones.

Fulton County’s jail has also faced a host of problems in recent years. Roughly two dozen people died in custody of the Fulton sheriff in the past two years and both the U.S. Department of Justice and the state legislature have announced investigations of the jail.