Perhaps hundreds of inmates in Atlanta’s Fulton County Jail were kept in custody well beyond the time they were supposed to have been freed, contend critics quoted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Fulton County government, its former sheriff, and the city of Atlanta are named in a federal lawsuit that claims chronic overcrowding and system failures have led to “unlawful detentions.” A hearing is set for Wednesday. Former Sheriff Jackie Barrett was in charge of the jail when the suit was filed in April. “There are procedures that have to be gone through before anyone can be released because there is a fear they might release someone wanted in another jurisdiction,” said Barrett’s attorney, Ted Lackland. “This takes time.”
In Columbus, Ga., where the Muscogee County jail averages 950 prisoners, inmates whose bond has been paid usually are released within 30 minutes to an hour, said Warden Terri Ezell. In one Atlanta case cited, a 43-year-old man was taken into custody at the airport on April 1 when a computer check erroneously said had not made child-support payments in 1998. He ended up in jail until April 6. Lackland, former Sheriff Barrett’s attorney, said any delays were the consequences of having too few resources to process inmates. “Because of the lack of funding, the department did the best it could,” he said.