A Georgia state Senate subcommittee launched its own investigation into Atlanta's Fulton County Jail after the U.S. Department of Justice announced a federal investigation following the troubling death of a inmate. The jail has come under fire for mounting violence, overcrowding, excessive force and unsanitary conditions. Officials blame a lack of resources and each other for the crisis, USA Today reports. New accusations about funds have come to light in recent weeks, as documents revealed hundreds of thousands of dollars intended to improve inmate welfare were spent on such things as Honey Baked Ham Co. gift cards for staff, vehicles, lunches, and jugglers who performed at a community event. Commissioners rescinded $2.1 million previously allotted for an inmate health initiative.
Georgia lawmakers are looking at jail conditions, funding, management, and the court system, subcommittee Chair Randy Robertson said. So far this year, there have been nearly 300 stabbings, 68 assaults on staff, more than 1,000 shanks confiscated, four instances of inciting riots, 10 deaths and at least one fire, Amelia Joiner, chief counsel to Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat told the subcommittee. Numerous other issues have been documented, including unsanitary conditions, crumbling walls and flooding inside units. Fulton County Jail has become the epicenter of the mass incarceration debate over chronically hazardous conditions and an overreliance on detainment. The U.S. holds 2 million people in jails and prisons and ranks among the highest worldwide in its dependence on incarceration, according to The Sentencing Project. "We know what causes safety in humans," said Emily Galvin-Almanza of Partners for Justice. "If a person has a roof over their head, the ability to put food on the table and access to mental health or substance use care, they are dramatically less likely to commit any kind of crime."