Atlantans Brainstorm On Cutting Jail Population

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Georgia officials picked up 82 convicted criminals yeserday who had been waiting at the Fulton County Jail for bed space at a state prison, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Another 98 should be removed within a week. U.S. District Judge Marvin Shoob took oversight of the overcrowded jail from Sheriff Jackie Barrett after the Southern Center for Human Rights filed a lawsuit saying jail conditions were inhumane and unsafe for inmates and staff. The jail was designed for about 1,400 inmates but averages more than 3,000. Shoob assembled about 50 judges, prosecutors and other county and state officials yesterday to discuss ways to whittle the number of inmates down to about 2,200. Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard suggested the goal should be about 1,600; Shoob agreed. Howard suggested that the state remove an estimated 400 inmates who are jailed for probation violations. Jones, who was representing the state, said he thought there were only about seven such inmates at the jail.

State Court Chief Judge A.L. Thompson said judges will look at reducing bonds and shortening sentences for nonviolent offenders to help lower the inmate population. Besides overcrowding, plumbing is backed up, there is widespread mold and the air conditioning doesn’t work. Morale is low and the jail is understaffed due to vacancies and a high number of absences. On Wednesday, Shoob named John Gibson, a former federal jail administrator in Atlanta, to take control of the jail. “I’m convinced this is the right guy, but we’ve got to get him the tools and certainly give him a population that is patrollable,” Shoob said.


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