Fulton County chair in talks with Atlanta mayor to transfer inmates out of county jail

External view of the former Atlanta City Detention Center located on Peachtree Street Southwest in South Downtown.

Fulton County Chairman Robb Pitts said he wants to close the North Jail Annex in Alpharetta to avoid moving incarcerated individuals to facilities hundreds of miles away.

Last year, the board of commissioners voted 6-1 to spend more than half a million dollars to renovate and reopen the Alpharetta city-owned jail.

At the time, officers in North Fulton said they were spending too much time commuting down to the overcrowded main jail in Atlanta when they could be responding to calls in the community.

In a statement on Friday, Sept. 29, Pitts said he opposed the reopening of the Alpharetta jail from the start, adding that it was a “bad idea and a waste of money.”

“It is now a waste of time for the approximately 30 officers who are manning an underutilized – almost empty – lockup,” Pitts said. “The facility has about 35 beds, but, on any given day, houses only a handful of inmates.”

“We should immediately close the Alpharetta jail,” he continued. “It is a simple action that would have a positive domino effect.”

The board of commissioners spent several hours last week arguing over a proposal by Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat to move up to 1,000 individuals from the main jail to private prisons like the D. Ray James Correctional Facility in South Georgia or the Tallahatchie Couty Correctional Facility in Mississippi to try to improve living conditions at the overcrowded main jail.

However, the move would cost county taxpayers millions of dollars per month in addition to the amount Fulton already spends renting bed space at nearby county jails.

Pitts says that by closing the Alpharetta jail, the county could adequately staff the Atlanta City Detention Center instead and move approximately 250 additional detainees out of the main jail. Fulton County has a contract with the city of Atlanta to house up to 700 pre-trail or non-violent detainees.

“Mayor Andre Dickens has indicated that once those 700 beds are filled, he would consider my request to remove the 700-bed cap outlined in a recent Intergovernmental Agreement,” Pitts said. “And, if the Atlanta City Council agrees, the city can then free up the additional 600 beds at ACDC and allow us to transfer more inmates out of the Rice Street jail. Thus negating the need to transfer inmates out of state to Mississippi and to South Georgia.”

The city and the mayor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pitts’ idea has not been officially proposed and would need to be approved by the board of commissioners. The board is set to meet at the Fulton County Government Center on Wednesday, Oct. 4.

The public meeting will be live-streamed on the county’s YouTube channel.