Fulton County

DOJ launching civil rights investigation into Fulton County Jail

FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — The U.S. Department of Justice has announced that they are launching a civil rights investigation into the Fulton County Jail.

Channel 2 Action News first reported on the investigation on Channel 2 Action News at Noon on Thursday.

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The DOJ announced they will be doing a comprehensive investigation of the living conditions at the jail, access to medical care and mental healthcare, use of force and conditions that may give rise to violence against inmates.

The DOJ will also investigate whether the jail discriminates against incarcerated people with psychiatric disabilities.


The DOJ said they would conduct the investigation pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Based on an extensive review of publicly available information and information gathered from stakeholders, the Department has found significant justification to open this investigation, including credible allegations that an incarcerated person died covered in insects and filth; that the Fulton County Jail is structurally unsafe; that prevalent violence has resulted in serious injuries and homicides; and that officers are being prosecuted for using excessive force,” the DOJ said in a statement.

The announcement comes after a homeless man with mental illness died inside the psychiatric unit of the jail last year.

LaShawn Thompson died in a filthy cell after a severe bedbug infestation in September 2022. The Medical Examiner hired by Thompson’s family determined Thompson died of severe neglect.

“Following the death of Mr. Thompson, evidence has emerged that the mental health unit in which he was housed was infested with insects and that the majority of people living in that unit were malnourished and not receiving basic care,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said.

The DOJ also cited the sheriff’s own pleas for help with the dilapidated conditions of the jail and the fact that inmates were sleeping on bedding on the floor and crafting shanks out of the crumbling infrastructure.

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According to the DOJ, 87% of the jail is black.

“This is a racial justice issue,” Clarke said.

Clarke said the DOJ will conduct its investigation and then give guidance on how to improve conditions.

“The unconstitutional conditions that we see too often inside jails and prisons have no place in society today,” Clarke said. “We are launching this investigation to determine whether Fulton County’s treatment of people in the jail complies with constitutional standards. We are committed to ensuring jail and prison facilities provide constitutional conditions, in which all people can live safely and receive medical care. Incarceration should never include exposure to unconstitutional living conditions, including the risk of serious harm from violence.”

The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office issued a statement Thursday, saying:

“Fulton County and the Sheriff’s Office have been made aware of a civil rights investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice to examine conditions at the Fulton County Jail and will be cooperating fully with the investigation.”

Channel 2′s Tyisha Fernades was at the jail Thursday and talked to the families of victims of violence at the jail.

Many people Fernandes talked to said “finally,” and that they believe the federal investigation is long overdue.

Tameaka Hamilton’s son, who has mental disabilities, was injured on Christmas Eve while he was being held at the jail.

“He was stabbed by a lot of guys 16 times and they took him to the hospital, but they never notified any family members or anything, and when they brought him back from the hospital, they put him right back in the same cell with the same people,” Hamilton said.

That’s one of many serious allegations made against the jail recently.

Just a few months ago, an inmate dug a tunnel to another inmate’s cell and stabbed him.

In May, an inmate bit part of a detention officer’s ear off and broke her elbow.

“It’s a lot of innocent people that’s behind bars, so I just feel like you have to have compassion when you’re dealing with people because you never know what situations they’re in,” Hamilton said.

Earlier this year, three high-ranking jailers resigned at the sheriff’s request.