County leaders want new sales tax to pay for new Fulton County Jail. Why this is the cheaper option

ATLANTA — Fulton County plans on asking the state for permission to raise a sales tax to pay for a proposed nearly $2 billion new jail.

County officials told Channel 2′s Richard Elliot that the $1.7 billion price tag is better than what the county says is the $2.4 billion it would take to retrofit the old jail.

Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat appeared before a state Senate subcommittee investigating problems at the Rice Street Jail on Tuesday.

He and county leaders are arguing over budgets even as both sides agree the old jail is quite literally falling apart.

It’s so bad, that jail officials say prisoners are pulling out parts of the walls to make shanks.

“We are putting a Band-Aid on heart surgery, and so ultimately, we need a replacement facility,” Labat said.

County leaders agree.

Fulton County Commission Chair Robb Pitts acknowledged they both want the same thing but have differing views on how to do it.

“We may differ as to what we see is how we go about providing for the public safety of the 1,200,000 people who call Fulton County their home,” Pitts said.


But while both sides disagree on how to manage the old jail, both agree they need a new one.

The county said it’s planning to build a new $1.7 billion facility and it came to the meeting with a wish list for state lawmakers, including asking the state to authorize a new sales tax to pay for it, adding three new superior court judges to help speed prisoners through it and transferring some available jails to Fulton County, which would include the Atlanta City Jail.

Columbus state Sen. Randy Robertson said they’re not ready to move on any of those suggestions but agrees Fulton County needs a new jail soon.

“Right now, everything they are doing is keeping everything above water. But I think anyone that doesn’t believe Fulton County has to build a new jail, they’re living on a planet that I’m not familiar with,” Robertson said.

Senators acknowledged the job county officials and the sheriff’s office did in reducing the total number of county prisoners from a pandemic high of 3,700 to 1,731 at the Rice Street Jail as of Tuesday morning.


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