Jail where Trump will be booked in Georgia has long been plagued with violence

Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat said earlier this month that Trump will be treated like other defendants.
A view of the Fulton County Jail. (Photo | AP)
A view of the Fulton County Jail. (Photo | AP)

ATLANTA: Former President Donald Trump is expected to surrender on Thursday at the jail in Georgia’s most populous county — an overcrowded facility with a reputation for violence and neglect that has prompted a federal investigation into conditions there.

Trump will be released from Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, known colloquially as the Rice Street jail, once he is booked on charges of illegally scheming to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia.

Not all criminal defendants are handled that way. Others have spent months, or even years, there before they were indicted.

Here’s a look at the jail and what Trump might experience when he turns himself in:

WHAT MIGHT TRUMP’S BOOKING LOOK LIKE?
When defendants arrive at the building, they typically pass through a security checkpoint before checking in for formal booking in the lobby.

They are taken into a large, open room that has stations for fingerprinting, mugshots, and medical evaluations, said attorney Michael Harper, who toured the jail several years ago and has filed several lawsuits over inmate deaths that occurred there.

The room typically has numerous defendants in for booking at any given time, along with jail staff and guards. Given Trump’s security needs, that may be unlikely this time.

“It’s a huge, busy area,” Harper said.

The jail takes in people 24 hours a day and holds defendants facing a range of charges, from misdemeanors to violent crimes.

Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat said earlier this month that Trump will be treated like other defendants.

But the former president, who still has 24-hour Secret Service protection, may receive some accommodations for security reasons. In his past appearances in a New York state court and federal courts in Miami and Washington, Trump was not handcuffed while in custody. He also was not required to pose for a mugshot, with officials instead using existing photographs of the former president.

His booking in Atlanta could be different in that respect.

“Unless someone tells me differently, we are following our normal practices and so it doesn’t matter your status, we’ll have a mugshot ready for you,” Labat said at a news conference in August.

WHERE IS THE JAIL AND WILL PEOPLE BE ABLE TO SEE TRUMP?
The jail is a few miles from downtown Atlanta on the city’s west side. It’s across from a massive new park in an area with a mix of warehouses and residential development.

The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release Monday that there will be a “hard lockdown” of the area surrounding the jail when Trump surrenders. That likely means people won’t be able to get close.

As of now, Trump is not scheduled to go to court on Thursday. Unlike in other jurisdictions, Fulton County arraignments — where a defendant first appears in court — are generally set after a defendant completes the booking process.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE JAIL?
Fulton County Jail, which opened in 1989, held more than 3,200 people earlier this year — well above its capacity of roughly 2,700.

Devin Franklin, a public defender in Fulton County for 12 years, said his clients regularly accused guards of opening cell doors to facilitate attacks.

“They would call it ‘popping the doors,’” he said.

Franklin recalled trying to move a 17-year-old who said he was forced to fight other people at the jail for food.

Stabbings are frequent and medical care is poor, attorneys say. Three people have died at the facility over the last month after being found unresponsive in their cells — two of them in a medical unit.

The US Department of Justice announced earlier this year that it opened a civil rights investigation into conditions at the jail, with officials citing violence, filthy conditions and the death last year of Lashawn Thompson, whose body was found covered in insects.

Labat has called on the county to fund a new jail. Franklin said too many low-level offenders are being held for too long because they can’t pay their bail and the district attorney’s office is not seeking grand jury indictments fast enough.

“They have so many people in custody that don’t need to be in custody, especially when you know you can’t keep them safe,” Franklin said.

WHAT IS TRUMP SAYING ABOUT THE JAIL?
In a fundraising email sent Tuesday, Trump said the jail has been described as a “humanitarian crisis” and “a violent jail.” He said guards have collected shanks made from the jail’s crumbling walls.

The sheriff’s office said in March that authorities conducting a “shakedown” found more than 200 homemade knives.

“Inmates are literally crafting shanks from the crumbling walls of the dilapidated facility,” Labat said in a statement at the time.
 

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