Conditions in Atlanta's Fulton County Jail have been a hot topic after the U.S. Justice Department launched a civil probe to examine whether inmates' constitutional rights are being violated, USA Today reports. The jail is more than 300 people over capacity. State leaders in August approved a $4 million settlement for the family of a man who died at the jail after being found unresponsive and covered in bug bites. Sheriff Pat Labat proposed sending some inmates to another Georgia facility about four hours away, or to a Tutwiler, Miss., lockup more than six hours away. Both options come with hefty price tags. “I am sad today that in the civil rights cradle we're talking about shipping individuals to Mississippi,” said county commissioner Khadijah Abdur-Rahman.
Commissioners and other local officials blamed the overcrowding on a myriad of reasons, including widespread staffing issues, a backlog of cases at the court and logistical problems. Commissioners worked with the Atlanta City Detention Center and other facilities close by to hold people from the Fulton County Jail. However, even facilities with the space to hold more people don’t have the staff to operate at 100% capacity. Fulton County has tried to incentivize people to work at the jail, but it is still having retention issues. Georgia law provides that anyone arrested and denied bond is entitled to a hearing within 90 days of confinement. Absent a proceeding within that time period, a defendant has a right to have bail set. However, Fulton County Jail has held 521 unindicted people for more than 90 days, 60 of whom have been held more than a year.