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Fulton County Jail Staggering Release of 300 Inmates As Protesters Raise Alarm

Protesters drive by with a banner reading "Fulton County's inaction = death sentence #FreeThemAll," Tuesday during a protest outside the Fulton County District Attorney’s office.
Protesters drive by with a banner reading "Fulton County's inaction = death sentence #FreeThemAll," Tuesday during a protest outside the Fulton County District Attorney’s office.
Credit Lisa Hagen / WABE
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The Fulton County District Attorney told WABE he’s working on getting at least 300 jail inmates released with ankle bracelets. Public health experts and advocates for incarcerated people have been urging such measures as both Fulton County inmates and jail employees have tested positive for COVID-19. 

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard says a group of 47 Fulton County Jail inmates were released Monday. They’ll be followed by another group of about 50 people on Thursday.

“As we see how the release patterns emerge – whether or not the jail is able to do this smoothly – then hopefully we’ll increase the numbers until we get to 300,” said Howard, adding that they may continue recommending further releases.  

Mary Hooks, with Southers on New Ground, argues with a Fulton County Sheriff's Deputy blocking the road in Atlanta. Activist groups demanded the release of Fulton County Jail inmates Tuesday.
Mary Hooks, with Southers on New Ground, argues with a Fulton County Sheriff’s Deputy blocking the road in Atlanta. Activist groups demanded the release of Fulton County Jail inmates Tuesday. (Lisa Hagen/WABE)

Howard says the first groups to be released are people over age 60. His office is recommending that people serving jail sentences for ordinance violations and probation revocation also be released. 

The announcement came as a group of Atlanta activists protested outside the Fulton County District Attorney’s office Tuesday, demanding the release of jail inmates.

The activists, from local groups including Southerners on New Ground and Women on the Rise, maintained social distancing by circling the block in more than a dozen cars, painted and covered in protest signs. 

“Other places have shown decarceration is possible: New York City reduced the number of people held in Rikers Island by 600. It took them three days. Los Angeles reduced the number of arrests by 75%,” the groups said in a press statement.

Sixteen people incarcerated in Fulton County jail have tested positive for COVID-19. One of them was hospitalized, and another was treated and released.

There are currently 2,600 inmates in Fulton County jail facilities, according to the district attorney’s office.

Howard said at least 172 current jail inmates are meant to be in state prison facilities, which have stopped accepting new prisoners.