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“Physically, Visually Breaking Down”

The humanitarian crisis at Fulton County jail goes much further than people sleeping on the floor. In September, a man was found dead, slumped over in his cell, covered in body lice and feces. He’d been held without bond since June, and had a history of mental illness. He was 35 years old.

A report from the jail’s medical provider revealed widespread neglect. At the time of this man’s death, more than 90% of people in his unit were so malnourished they’d developed cachexia, a wasting syndrome that typically affects people with advanced-stage cancer, and were “physically, visually breaking down.” In a unit housing people diagnosed with mental illnesses requiring treatment, every single person had lice, scabies, or both, and 90% were not showering, dressing, leaving their beds, walking, using the toilet, or receiving essential medications.

The Atlanta City Detention Center has long been slated to be repurposed to better serve marginalized Atlantans. But the city now plans to lease 700 beds in the city jail to Fulton County to address overcrowding, though several reports show that hundreds of people are being held illegally and needlessly, and that expanding incarceration would make the city less safe.

Fulton County continually subjects people to life-threatening conditions in all its jails. The sheriff himself said he has lost more staff than he can hire, with 155 staff vacancies reported in October. There are better solutions– releasing people and addressing the needs that keep them ensnared in our city’s courts and carceral systems. 

“We all agree this is a humanitarian crisis. But you have to respond to a humanitarian crisis in ways that respect people’s humanity.” -SCHR Movement Policy Counsel Devin Franklin

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