Fulton can’t shake feds’ oversight of jail

A federal judge has denied Fulton County’s request that he terminate his supervision of the Rice Street jail, saying the county can’t be left on its own based on unfulfilled promises.

Fulton remains under a 2006 consent decree stemming from a lawsuit over dirty, dangerous and overcrowded conditions in the facility. Complying with terms of the order is costing taxpayers almost $150 million, including interest on loans for extensive renovations.

County officials asked a judge to terminate the order because the jail is now safe, clean and no longer overcrowded, and all but a few requirements of the order have been met. Senior U.S. District Judge Marvin Shoob, who is overseeing the county’s compliance, responded with an adamant no.

“The county promised seven years ago to fix the locks and provide adequate staffing,” Shoob said in a decision filed Tuesday. “Today these promises remain unfulfilled. To achieve termination of prospective relief, the law requires results, not more promises.”

Shoob cited the county’s history of backsliding when past lawsuits over jail conditions were settled in past decades. He also expressed dismay that the County Commission cut funds for housing inmates in outside jails, which the chief jailer said will cause inmates to sleep on floors, “a clear violation of the consent order.”

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