Community members urge Senate subcommittee investigating Fulton Jail to invest in diversion programs

Columbus state Sen. Randy Robertson speaks to a member of the public testifying at a hearing about the conditions inside the Fulton County Jail on Friday, May 10, 2023. (Screenshot)

A Georgia Senate subcommittee investigating the Fulton County Jail will soon submit its recommendations for fixing ongoing issues inside the facility.

The subcommittee has heard hours of testimony over the past nine months from what State Sen. John Albers called the “four legs of the stool,” referencing the sheriff, county commission, district attorney and judiciary.

But on Friday, May 10, community members also came forward to testify about the programs they offer that could help prevent overcrowding at the jail on Rice Street, where three people have died this year.

Dominique Grant, campaign and operations manager for the nonprofit Women on the Rise, said her group works directly with Fulton County to ensure formerly incarcerated women don’t re-offend.

“Our goal is to find ways to keep people out of the jail doors,” Grant said. “Period. Even before they come into the jail. We think that would be a solution. Instead of building a bigger jail, finding ways to be able to provide services to people who are on the streets.”

Much of the testimony provided at past hearings has focused on the need for additional funds, either for the judiciary to work through cases quicker or for the county to build a new jail for approximately $2 billion.

According to WSB-TV, Fulton County is considering asking the General Assembly to authorize a penny sales tax to pay for it.

Roberta Meyers Douglas, vice president of state strategy and reentry for the Legal Action Center, has another solution in mind.

“I’m hoping that you’ll push more for accountability,” Douglas said.

The hearing was the last one the subcommittee holds before outlining its recommendations.