Georgia authorities are treating the October death of an inmate called Shamar McLeroy as a homicide after they discovered him with his hands and feet shackled in his cell.
The 21-year-family old’s claims that just because he was arrested on allegations of child molestation and public indecency in the Atlanta region does not mean that he deserves to die behind bars.
Serintha Gray, his aunt, said to WSBTV, “I want to see justice. Something needs to be done. Fulton County Jail should be held accountable for what happened to my nephew.”
As part of a jail overcrowding issue that some have termed a “humanitarian disaster,” at least 14 individuals have died in Atlanta-area jails since the beginning of the year, according to a review of Fulton County data.
The journal revealed that there were four times as many deaths in detention this year compared to the previous year, with four deaths occurring in November alone.
Currently, only three of the deaths can be directly attributed to homicide. An attorney with the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, which operates the jails, told The Appeal, “As these custodial deaths are currently under investigation, no additional information or remarks will be made available about these matters at this time.”
The deaths are just one symptom of a broader problem in the overcrowded prisons of the Atlanta area, where hundreds of convicts are currently sleeping on the floor in makeshift cots and where numerous inmates have been injured in stabbings.
Atlanta’s municipal council controversially approved leasing 700 jail beds in August, with the intention of converting the building into a community centre.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that 3,462 inmates in Fulton County jails are being held on offenses that qualify them for prison diversion programs, according to a review of the jail population conducted as part of the agreement about using the Atlanta City Detention City.
In many cases we looked at, inmates with limited incomes couldn’t afford the $15,000 bond.
Because of bond problems, one person was in jail for nearly a year and a half, during which time they were not formally charged with any crimes.
The most severe charge for more than a third of the inmates in Fulton County was a lesser offense.
The high number of inmate deaths in Atlanta’s jails has sparked a broader debate over the $7.8 million Policing Alternatives & Diversion Initiative (PAD), a multi-agency program that allows officials to divert low-level offenders or those who commit crimes out of necessity to get housing and other services instead of prison time.
Several Atlanta city council members have threatened to cut funding for PAD over concerns that the prison expansion pact will undermine the efforts of local law enforcement agencies to increase the number of available jail beds.