The Justice Department announced today that it has opened a civil investigation into the conditions in the Fulton County Jail in Georgia.
Based on an extensive review of publicly available information and information gathered from stakeholders, the Department has found significant justification to open this investigation, including credible allegations that an incarcerated person died covered in insects and filth, that the Fulton County Jail is structurally unsafe, that prevalent violence has resulted in serious injuries and homicides, and that officers are being prosecuted for using excessive force.
The investigation thus will examine living conditions, medical and mental health care, use of excessive force, and protection from violence. The investigation will also examine whether Fulton County and the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office discriminate against persons with psychiatric disabilities inside the jail.
“People in prisons and jails are entitled to basic protections of their civil rights,” said Attorney General Merrick B. 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 unconstitutional conditions that we see too often inside jails and prisons have no place in society today,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We are launching this investigation to determine whether Fulton County’s treatment of people in the jail complies with constitutional standards. We are committed to ensuring jail and prison facilities provide constitutional conditions, in which all people can live safely and receive medical care. Incarceration should never include exposure to unconstitutional living conditions, including the risk of serious harm from violence.”
“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.”
Department officials have informed Fulton County officials and the Fulton County Sheriff of the investigation. They pledged to cooperate with the investigation.
The Department has not reached any conclusions regarding the allegations in this matter. The investigation will be conducted under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Both statutes give the Department the authority to investigate systemic violations of the rights of people confined to correctional facilities. The Department’s work has led to important reforms to protect the rights of people in jails and prisons.
The Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section is conducting this investigation jointly with the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Northern District of Georgia. Individuals with relevant information are encouraged to contact the Department via phone at (888) 473-4092 or by email at email@example.com.
Additional information about the Civil Rights Division’s work regarding correctional facilities is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt/rights-persons-confined-jails-and-prisons.