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Georgia committee poised to deliver Fulton Jail recommendations

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(The Center Square) — As Fulton County officials reportedly consider a sales tax to fund a $1.7 billion Fulton County Jail replacement, some groups have an idea to save taxpayers money: keeping people out of jail.

The Georgia Senate Public Safety Subcommittee on Fulton County Jail is preparing to file a report with recommendations that could guide legislative action when lawmakers return to Atlanta next year. WSB-TV reported county officials plan on asking state lawmakers to allow a new sales tax to pay for a jail replacement.

Overcrowding at the Fulton County jail costs taxpayers millions of dollars and creates a dangerous environment. The subcommittee is investigating the “root causes” and possible solutions for fixing the jail.

“Our goal is to find ways to keep people out of … the jail doors, period, before they even come into the jail,” Dominique Grant, campaign and operations manager for the nonprofit Women on the Rise, told the subcommittee during a recent meeting. “We think that that will be a solution. Instead of building a bigger jail, finding ways to be able to provide services to people who are on the streets.”

Roberta “Toni” Meyers Douglas, vice president of state strategy and reentry for the Legal Action Center, urged lawmakers to push for accountability.

“It’s important to look at are they investing in partnering with organizations like the ones that you’ve seen? Are they really putting money into maintaining and taking care of these facilities that the taxpayers are putting in their hands to be responsible for?” Douglas asked the subcommittee. “You can put someone in a brand new house, you could put someone in a brand new car, but if they don’t know how to take care of it, they’re going to run it to the ground, everything’s going to fall apart, and we can’t allow for that.”

According to a poll released last week by the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, half of Fulton County voters believe the jail is poorly managed, dangerous, and overcrowded.

“This poll confirms what we already believed: Fulton County voters understand that building an expensive new facility won’t solve the current safety crisis in Fulton County Jail,” Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, said in a statement. “Without addressing alternatives to detaining people in jail, Fulton County will continue to put people held in custody at risk, especially those with mental health issues.”

The African American Research Collaborative polled 800 registered Fulton County voters between Jan. 31 and Feb. 14.