Donald Trump Doesn’t Get the Full Treatment at Fulton County Jail

The Fulton County Jail, processed it’s highest profile prisoner to date as former president Donald Trump surrendered to jail officials on Thursday, charged with crimes ranging from racketeering to conspiracy in relation to his effort to overturn the 2020 election.  

The facility, better known as Rice Street to locals, is literally a hotbed of controversy surrounding allegedly inhumane conditions of incarceration and gross negligence for the hundreds of detainees waiting behind bars in the overcrowded outdated facility for their day in court.

But Trump who spent less than an hour at Rice Street, pre-posted the $20,000 cash payment, or 10 percent of his $200,000 bond did not get the full Rice Street experience, which has been described by inmates, visitors and penal experts as “horrific, inhumane and degrading.”

Seven people have died in the jail this year, including one male inmate who died covered in bed bug bites. People die in squalor regularly on Rice Street — four in the past six weeks — who were denied medical attention or whose calls for help were ignored by jail staff, until it was too late.

State and county officials have contemplated abandoning the current facility because of the dismal conditions and either moving inmates to other facilities and/or building a state-of-the-art detention center.

“I saw what most Fulton County citizens have never seen, and if they did, they would be horrified,” said Fulton County Commissioner Khadijah Abdur-Rahman following her first tour of the jail. “There are inmates sleeping on the floor because of overcrowding, and the living conditions are worse than what we see in third-world countries or war zones.”

Visitors to the jail say they have witnessed a makeshift communication system — made with string and bottles — that officers use to pass critical messages to each other from one floor to the next through a shoot. There is also a need for updated, working cameras which several corridors are missing.

Inmate files that should be digital are years behind in filing, and many are housed in a condemned annex adjacent to the jail which looks like an OSHA nightmare. In the main kitchen, the dry-foods storage room has water leaking from the ceiling and a large commercial pots-and-pans dishwasher has been sitting idle for years. Sheriff staff members say they are actively working to upkeep the cell blocks, showers and other spaces, to prevent mold from setting in.

“Quite frankly, we need a new building. We are throwing good money after bad, and we keep providing

‘Band-Aid’ solutions to an ‘open-heart surgery’ condition,” she said. “We have an obligation to treat inmates fairly and humanely, and to make sure they are safe, and that the staff that is safe too.”

The American Civil Liberties Union addressing the volatile issues regarding the inhumane treatment of individuals wrongly incarcerated in the Fulton County jail in 2022 report, stating: “It’s clear from the findings that resulted from their investigation that many of our public servants are refusing to put people before politics.”

The ACLU findings are most disturbing because “the intergovernmental agreement between Atlanta and Fulton County is a four-year lease to house 700 inmates. … Our focus should be reserving dignity and ceasing unjust discrimination of people who are victims of circumstances caused by poverty and insufficiency.,” the report concluded.

Fulton County opened its Rice Street facility in 1989 with a design capacity of 1,125. A 2006 consent order required the jail headcount to remain under 2,500 inmates. In December 2022, Rice Street held about 2,950.

Violence Makes Things Worse

The travesty of the Fulton County jail housing conditions is compounded by unchecked violence. 

On June 28, 2023 the ACLU of Georgia filed an open records request to obtain maintenance records for the Fulton County Jail amid continuing concerns about the health and well-being of people being housed at the facility.

The horror stories emanating from detainees and visitors to the Rice Street facility continue to surface following the highly publicized death of an inmate, LaShawn Thompson, who was apparently eaten alive by bed bugs.

The records request was part of ongoing efforts by the ACLU of Georgia and other organizations to improve conditions at the jail and reduce the number of people in detention. 

A number of local officials have repeatedly called for an investigation into the jails conditions and several have recommended closing the facility altogether due to inhumane treatment of inmates housed there, many of who have not been convicted of any crime.

Last week, a coalition of civic groups and advocacy organizations sent a letter to Fulton County executives, Atlanta officials, Sheriff Patrick “Pat” Labat, and chief judges about the jail’s horrid conditions. Advocates said no argument can be made toward locking up the mentally ill, those with no access to legal counsel, and others due to excessive backlogs – it’s fundamentally wrong and a violation of the constitutional rights of these citizens.

The letter reiterated the group’s opposition to Sheriff Labatt’s request for an additional $27 million dollars to keep the jail running without any accountability for addressing the systemic issues.

To date, the advocacy organizations have not received a response to the demands included in the letter.

 

 

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