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County tackles jail overcrowding
by Noreen Cochran
August 21, 2013 11:02 AM | 981 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Fulton County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a lease-to-own contract for the South Fulton Municipal Regional Jail in Union City during its Aug. 7 meeting.

The additional beds will be used to relieve potential overcrowding at the Fulton County jail.

Under the terms of the intergovernmental agreement, the county will pay the city $111,750 per month and the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office will staff the jail.

“At least 285 beds shall be available for housing of county inmates,” Chairman John Eaves said.

The city will pay for utilities, maintenance and repairs.

The portion of the payments corresponding to monthly debt-service obligations will be credited to the county for potential purchase or lease/purchase of the jail.

Commissioner Robb Pitts, who seconded Eaves' motion, said in a statement after the meeting, “The sheriff needs the flexibility to accommodate inmates when the jail population exceeds 2,500. Otherwise we risk penalties for violating the [federal] consent decree [of 2006].”

Another way to avoid overcrowding is to readmit fewer repeat offenders, which Eaves said is one of the primary goals of the Smart Justice Advisory Council he proposed.

Eaves said “smart justice” is a way to bookend an inmate’s jail time with more efficiency in the courts prior to sentencing and more help from the community after release.

“I want to bring that concept on a local level. About 40 percent of our budget goes for criminal justice. Roughly $100 million a year goes for the jail,” he said. “The big question is, are we doing justice in an efficient, smart way?”

Commissioner Joan Garner asked if the effort will connect with the county’s existing Reentry Task Force, established in 2009 under the federal Second Chance Act, which Eaves affirmed.

“We’re going to build on the foundations that have been established already,” he said.

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