Fulton County

‘You got me messed up:’ Fulton commission meeting gets fiery as sheriff asks for more money for jail

FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — For months, Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat has gone before the Fulton County Commission to request more money to fix the deteriorating jail.

Channel 2′s Michael Seiden was at Wednesday’s meeting where some commissioners were not happy with the sheriff’s latest request.

The issue of overcrowding and the structure of the jail itself is not new, but finding a solution has become controversial and personal.

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Labat is asking for $30 million to $40 million to send up to 1,000 inmates to private prisons in south Georgia and Mississippi. He told commissioners that the private facilities would provide mental healthcare and programs that inmates don’t receive in Fulton County.

Commissioner Bob Ellis called Labat’s request an “abuse of power.”

“This is about the third time the sheriff’s office has come down here not giving us information ahead of time to ask us for a boatload of money with limited detail and create a staged presentation associated with it. That’s an abuse of power,” Vice Chairman Ellis said.

The meeting led to a heated exchange between Labat and the commission.

“You got me disingenuous, and you got me messed up! See, I can bring out all the SWATs out [of] southwest Atlanta so you can have all of that. I’m not going to let you take me there because my mama taught me better, but you’re telling not the truth. You know it like I know it,” Labat said during the meeting.


Ellis also criticized Labat for sensationalizing the meeting by allowing inmates to speak directly to commissioners.

“The jail itself is deteriorating,” inmate Kenneth Perry Jr. said. “The walls are crumbling down and inmates are creating shanks out of the walls.”

Activists who oppose the plan argue that sending inmates out of state will prevent them from meeting with their lawyers and families.

“It is going to create a barrier and a difficult situation for people who are incarcerated and those who are representing them,” activist Devin Barrington-Ward said.

“Since COVID, we haven’t had visitation. Those same virtual options are available to friends and family and even to their legal teams,” Labat countered.

The sheriff’s request did not go to a vote on Wednesday.

The public defender’s office has also filed a lawsuit against Sheriff Labat and his office. It’s unclear how that will impact the commission’s decision.

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