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New Fulton Co. jail could cost $2 billion, study says

That study, conducted by the county, found that the jail would need to radically increase in size in order to combat overcrowding.

FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — The future of the Fulton County jail is expected to be discussed at a meeting with county commissioners on Wednesday.

An agenda obtained by 11Alive shows that the sheriff's office is expected to bring forth a study pertaining to the jail and its long-term sustainability.

That study, conducted by the county, found that the jail would need to radically increase in size in order to combat overcrowding.

“Today we have almost 600 people sleeping on the floors and the jail is being held together with duct tape and bubble gum," Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat said. "When you have people that are ingenious enough to start stripping the wires from some outlets and start using the materials there to build and make homemade knives -- we have to create a better environment."

Specifically, the facility would need to almost quadruple in size - providing bedding for more than 6,000 inmates by 2047. The jail was meant to hold about 1,500 detainees. It's housing more than double its capacity.

“All of our models that really pass statistical muster, are calling for an increase in bookings that does outpaced population growth,” said Patrick Jablonski who was of the consultant team hired to complete the feasibility report.

The study also notes the extensive cost - $2 billion - such a project would require and sets forth a plan for where and when the new facility should be built.

As for where, the study recommends the current Rice Street location as the land is county-owned, sits in close proximity to Fulton County Courts and Grady Hospital. Plus it would have little outside community impact as it's the current jail's location.

The hope is for the project to be completed at the end of 2028.

Overcrowding at the jail has been a problem for some time now.

The study notes that the current Rice Street facility was designed to hold 1,125 inmates but is now occupied by close to 3,000.

In addition, it says there have been 11 fires, 534 fights, and 114 stabbings since January of last year as a result of this issue.

The study notes 90% of jail space is being used for housing, meaning there is little additional room for treatment and programs for inmates.

On top of that, the building is in overall poor condition, with the study noting that the lifespan of other comparable jails is only around 30 years.

The county and City of Atlanta recently agreed to a four-year lease agreement to move some detainees to the Atlanta City Detention Center back in November

Labat said there aren't many options but to make moves to better conditions.

“Doing nothing but ultimately cost us between $14 and $18 million a month," he said. "So, it’s an opportunity to get it right as we move forward."

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