Dept. of Justice investigating living conditions, use of force and other issues at Fulton County Jail

In recent months, multiple investigations have been made into excessive force and living conditions at the Fulton County Jail.
Published: Jul. 13, 2023 at 12:45 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 13, 2023 at 4:58 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - The Department of Justice (DOJ) has launched a civil investigation into conditions at Fulton County Jail.

According to the DOJ, the investigation will look at the living conditions at the jail, access to medical and mental health care, history of conditions at the jail, use of force, and the structural safety of the jail. The investigation will also look into whether “Fulton County and the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office discriminate against persons with psychiatric disabilities inside the jail,” the DOJ said.

The DOJ announced that the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section is conducting the investigation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of Georgia.

“People in prisons and jails are entitled to basic protections of their civil rights,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. “We launched this investigation into the Fulton County Jail based on serious allegations of unsafe, unsanitary living conditions at the jail, excessive force and violence within the jail, discrimination against incarcerated individuals with mental health issues, and failure to provide adequate medical care to incarcerated individuals. During this comprehensive review of the conditions of confinement at the Fulton County Jail, the Justice Department will determine whether systemic violations of federal laws exist, and if so, how to correct them.”

The probe includes all jails run by the Fulton County sheriff, which also includes the north, south and Marietta annexes, according to a DOJ spokesperson.

The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office said 19-year-old Noni Battiste-Kosoko was found dead in her cell at the Atlanta City Detention Center on Tuesday.

RELATED: Family wants answers after man ‘eaten alive’ by bed bugs in county jail, attorney says

In recent months, multiple investigations have been made into excessive force and living conditions at the Fulton County Jail.

In April, attorney Michael D. Harper said an inmate died in jail after he was “eaten alive by insects and bed bugs.” According to Harper, LaShawn Thompson was at the Fulton County Jail for three months before he was found dead in a jail cell.

Based on an extensive review, the U.S. Department of Justice found unsafe, unsanitary living conditions at the jail, and excessive force. The Fulton County Jail was found to be “structurally unsafe” and that “prevalent violence has resulted in serious injuries and homicides,” the DOJ said.

Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat previously announced the resignation of three top jailers and the possibility of switching healthcare providers inside the jail. Three days later, the Fulton County Board of Commissioners approved $5.3 million to further address inmate safety and security.

The attorney of Thompson issued a statement about the DOJ probe into the Fulton County Jail.

“All Georgians deserve fairness from the institutions that serve us, including our local jails,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan for the Northern District of Georgia. “The recent allegations of filthy housing teeming with insects, rampant violence resulting in death and injuries, and officers using excessive force are cause for grave concern and warrant a thorough investigation. This investigation is part of our ongoing efforts to ensure that citizens are safe, and their constitutional rights protected, even while they are in custody.”

RELATED: Fulton County Sheriff’s Office addresses jail infestation, inmate death

In early June, former detention officer Monique Clark was arrested for “excessive and unnecessary force during the exchange of custody of a detainee.”

Reynard Trotman, who joined the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office in July 2022, was arrested in February on similar allegations. He received more than a dozen charges involving physical harm against an inmate.

Sheriff Pat Labat released the following statement:

The Fulton County Government and the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office issued a joint statement about the investigation.

The Georgia State Conference of the NAACP reacted to the DOJ to investigate the Fulton County Jail.