Curtis Farmer, who has been Fulton County deputy for 24 years, said he has a clear understanding of the sheriff’s job.
In addition to being responsible for jail operations and public safety, he said, “the sheriff is constitutionally required where needed to introduce state legislation concerning community safety issues to the Georgia General Assembly, such making our judicial system more efficient, issues concerning anti-behavioral and homelessness issues, improving Fulton County Juvenile justice’s 12 point system to hold juveniles accountable for their actions.”
Currently, none of these issue are being addressed, Farmer said, nor are they a part of any of the platforms for the other candidates.
As sheriff, “I will be personally lobbying the Georgia General Assembly to put a stop to Fulton County non-elected magistrate court judges from routinely allowing felony criminal inmates to sign their own bonds and to stop non-elected magistrate court judges from sentencing and releasing felony inmates back into our communities, avoiding justice. In many cases, these criminal offenders are committing other serious crimes.”
Overcrowding at the jail is also an issue that Farmer said would get his attention. “The citizens of Fulton County deserve a sheriff who will be proactive in challenging our Republican government for additional prison space.”
The sheriff must ensure that an organizational structure is in place at the jail “along with adequate staffing, manpower, up-to-date training, situational training and operational equipment in place that will reduce officer and inmate injuries,” Farmer said.
“Without giving the necessary attention to this critical area, taxpayers face unwarranted exposure to financial liability. This is a top priority for me. We must make our jail safe again.”
Charles Shelton, who said he has 27 years of supervisory and administrative law enforcement experience across the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department and other agencies, was Chief Steward for Fulton County Corrections. In that role Shelton said he was in charge of procurement as well as special investigations.
The first change he would make at the jail would be top management, Shelton said. “Top management such never invite an inmate to break major or any rules. Inviting inmate to break out of their cell is a big no no. How is it we bring a group of people to jail for doing wrong, and then invite them to do wrong while they’re in the jail?”
Last month it came to light that jail officials were testing new cell door locks and gave inmates incentives to try to pick the locks as a test of the locks’ effectiveness.
Shelton said he would also change the way we handle the jail handles the mentally ill. and change the way inmates are processed in and out of the jail.
Shelton said his law enforcement and jail experience and “the willingness to work and not just for a pay check” make him the best candidate. According to his bio on his Facebook page, as Chief Steward he was responsible for budgeting, oversight of day to day operations, maintenance and control of inventory as well as planning.
In 2000, Shelton retired from the Sheriff’s Office, and now runs a private security firm.
But the incumbent maintains the jail operation is in much better shape than it was three and a half years ago when he took office.
Under his watch, Sheriff Ted Jackson said a new leadership team has been put in place and jail management has “improved tremendously. We are continuing to make progress in the training of deputies and detention officers. We have changed a culture of excessive force, corruption, and greatly enhanced safety and security of inmates, employees and the jail.”
The jail is in 95 percent compliance with the Federal Consent Decree, Jackson said, and he has reinstituted inmate programs addressing mental illness, education, and work skills.
The main issues facing the jail are compliance with the Federal Consent Decree involving replacing the locks for security concerns, addressing future populations and the sufficient staffing of personnel to address an ever-growing gang and violent population of inmates.
While jail management is a major issue for the Sheriff’s Office, Jackson said protection of the courthouse and citizens of Fulton County are larger issues in the next four years. “The security program at the courthouse is underway for the construction and implementation of a state of the art command center to provide protection not only for the structure, but also for employees and visitors.”
Jackson points to his 37 years of law enforcement experience, 27 of which have been in a supervisory or executive position. “The office of sheriff requires extensive educational, executive and law enforcement experience to be successful in the complex office,” he said. “I possess this background and experience having been interim sheriff and current sheriff.”
Frank L. Brown, a retired East Point police chief, could not be contacted for this story. Another candidate, former sheriff Richard Lankford, did not get his information to the newspaper by deadline.
The winner of the primary will face Republican Roy Farmer in the general election Nov. 6.