Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fulton approves purchase of cell-door locks for county Jail

Posted By on Thu, Jun 20, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Later this year, Fulton County will finally be sure that its inmates stay behind bars.

The Fulton County Board of Commissioners yesterday voted to purchase $4.7 million worth of locks for the Fulton County Jail. The move follows its (slightly-delayed) decision last December to take on $5 million in debt to pay for the fixes. The move will mark the end of an era when prisoners could pick faulty cell-door locks, some of which were first installed when the jail was built in 1985.

"I am pleased that the Board has approved this important investment in the security of our jail," Chairman John Eaves said in a statement. "The jail locks are an important step in addressing the terms of the consent order, and in protecting the safety of jail employees, contractors, visitors, and the inmates themselves."

A federal judge six years ago ordered the county to address dangerous conditions at the Rice Street jail. The consent decree, which remains in effect, has forced major improvements costing the public more than $140 million. That included addressing its major overcrowding problem as well as replacing approximately 1,300 locks.

Eaves spokeswoman Bobbie Battista says the installation of the jail locks should begin in August and will take 270 days from the start date. "They can only do one pod at a time to accommodate moving inmates around," she tells CL.

The chairman recently told CL that the jail has made strides in its overcrowding issue - which has received additional attention after Mayor Kasim Reed fired shots at Fulton County's judicial system. Eaves says inmates are no longer outsourced to other correctional facilities in metro Atlanta. However, groups monitoring the jail's progress say women are still being forced to sleep on the floor because of a lack of beds. He said he's asked the jailer to consider reconfiguring the facility to free up more space.

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