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Monday, March 29, 2010

City jail is a budget-buster

click to enlarge Operating the Atlanta Detention Center costs $30 million a year and results in the city subsidizing the Fulton Sheriff's office.
  • Operating the Atlanta Detention Center costs $30 million a year and results in the city subsidizing the Fulton Sheriff's office.

Here's the bottom line: The Atlanta Detention Center – otherwise known as the city jail – located at the south end of Peachtree Street downtown costs taxpayers $30 million a year. That's net, after you've already factored in payments from MARTA, the U.S. Marshal's office, immigration authorities and the other agencies that lease inmate bed space from the city.

The city – or, more precisely, the mayor's office – wants to sell the jail to Fulton County. The lease-purchase deal would stem the flow of red ink and help close an anticipated $55 million gap in the upcoming 2011 budget. Fulton, still under a federal court mandate to ease overcrowding at its own jail, theoretically wants to buy the city's 1,150-bed facility.

As Councilman Howard Shook observes: "This deal is a no-brainer."

But you wouldn't know it from having attended recent Atlanta Council Finance Committee meetings, in which members have spent excruciating hours asking pointless questions, getting testy with administration officials and generally wallowing in irrelevant minutiae.

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(Photo by Joeff Davis)

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