Fulton County, Ga., Sheriff Jackie Barrett will try to ease a “state of emergency” at the county jail by temporarily shipping some inmates to other counties, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Barrett will hold a news conference tomorrow to problems at the jail, including an escape Friday and the unintentional release of two suspects earlier in the week.
Barrett believes crowding is one reason for the jail’s problems in the last year, during which at least eight inmates have been mistakenly released.
The jail has 2,900 inmates, 700 over capacity. Atlanta shifted cases involving violations of state law to the county court system; the number of prisoners booked at the jail has increased 24 percent since January 2003.
Barrett fired three employees and announced a “zero tolerance” policy for staff mistakes. She said Saturday that budget cuts play a large role in the jail’s shortcomings. More than 180 jobs have been cut to trim the jail budget in the last two years. About 665 deputies and civilian employees work at the jail.
Fulton County Commission Chairwoman Karen Handel called Barrett’s statement a “deft political maneuver” to deflect attention from another escape. “Every time an elected official gets in trouble for not doing their job well, they claim they don’t have enough money,” Handel said.