Candidates vying to be Fulton County’s top cop talk jail deaths, staffing troubles – WABE

by Fulton Watch News Feed

Nearly all of Fulton County’s candidates for sheriff said at a town hall on Tuesday, April 16, that they do not support the construction of a new, nearly $2 billion jail.

Democratic challengers Kirt Beasley, James “JT” Brown, Joyce Farmer and Charles Rambo agree there’s a humanitarian crisis at the Rice Street jail but say taxpayer money should be spent on renovating the beleaguered facility.

Meanwhile, incumbent Sheriff Patrick Labat is doubling down on his campaign for a new jail, citing the recent string of in-custody deaths.

“When detainees feel unsafe, they make weapons,” Labat said.

The sheriff is the highest law enforcement officer in the county, and Fulton is the state’s largest and most populated.

In 2020, Labat ran unopposed in the general election after defeating four primary contenders and winning a runoff to get on the ballot.

Sheriff Pat Labat answers a question during a town hall in Atlanta on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

However, the stakes are subjectively higher this year.

Three people have already died while in custody, and 10 died in 2023.

The 2022 death of Lashawn Thompson has also sparked national outrage. Thompson’s family was awarded a $4 million settlement after he was found dead in a bedbug-infested cell in the psychiatric wing of the Fulton County Jail.

He had been detained just three months earlier.

Labat said while maintaining the jail is the Board of Commissioners’ responsibility, he has tried to make a difference by creating an inmate advocacy unit and obtaining raises for his employees.

Still, if elected, some candidates said they would hire more staff, improve officer training and bolster security at the jail during their first 90 days in office. None of the candidates answered a question asking them whether they would resign if there were preventable…

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