Fulton County

More than 450 Fulton County inmates sleeping on floor amid overcrowding woes

ATLANTA — Another inmate has been stabbed at the Fulton County jail just days after Sheriff Patrick Labat warned Atlanta city leaders that lives are in danger.

Labat is advocating for some Fulton County inmates to be moved to beds leased at the mostly empty Atlanta City Detention Center amid ongoing problems with overcrowding and staff shortages at the jail.

As of Thursday, jail officials told Channel 2 Action News that there are 458 inmates assigned to sleep on the jail floor in so-called “boats” in open bullpen areas, meaning that they are not secured behind cell doors.

The city has agreed to move the inmates in principal, but so far, it has not happened.

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Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Mark Winne was at the jail Thursday, where he got exclusive video showing hundreds of weapons confiscated inside the jail that inmates are using to fight each other.

Fulton County jail officials showed Winne a collection of more than a thousand inmate-made weapons, most of them knife blades or sticking implements.

“Some of them are actually screws that have been filed down on the concrete within the jail,” Lee said. “Some of the softer pieces of metal have been bent into shape to create an edge in a quite deadly piece of material.”

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Fulton County Sheriff’s Lt. Col. Adam Lee said the wheelbarrows and barrels contain more than a thousand homemade weapons, most of them shanks made when pieces of metal pulled from the infrastructure of the Fulton County Jail where sharpened to potentially lethal points.

Lee said Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat recently had them displayed for the Fulton County commission to make a point about problems wit the overcrowded, aging jail.

Lee said stabbings in some periods this year have been an almost-daily occurrence. Hours before Winne spoke to Lee, there was another one.

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“From what I’ve been informed by a staff member that’s investigating the incident, the individual had his back turned to the assailant and the assailant snuck up behind him, stabbed him in the head and continued to stab him multiple times,” Lee said.

Lee confirmed that was one of two serious incidents in less than 24 hours at the jail. The other was an inmate’s death, which appears to be from natural causes.

The overcrowding and staff challenges at the jail can’t be rule out yet as potential factors.

Lee said that when one officer has to do security rounds on up to six pods full of inmates, it’s almost impossible to be attentive to every single individual.

“We have over 400 people sleeping on the floor,” Lee said.

Lee said nine Fulton County inmates have died since Jan. 1 from a combination of medical issues, suicide and homicide. All but one either died at the main jail on Rice Street or after being transported to the hospital from there.

Lee said a late September death at the jail was the result of a stabbing. So both death and stabbings at the jail have been an ongoing concern.

Lee said the possibility of more deaths in the overcrowded, staff-challenged jail was a significant part of the motivation for remarks Sheriff Labat made to the Atlanta City Council Monday.

“I am moving in a space where people’s lives are in danger,” Sheriff Patrick Labat said. “Since we met last, we had someone openly murdered in our facility. Why would we delay anything when it comes to people’s lives?”

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