One inmate has been killed in an ongoing mass stabbing at the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta where former President Donald Trump was booked and had his mug shot taken earlier this month.
Natalie Ammons at the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office told CNN that the situation remains active.
The Department of Justice started a civil rights investigation in July looking into the jail’s unsanitary and dilapidated conditions as well as into violence against inmates held there.
Mr Trump and his 18 co-defendants in the Georgia election subversion case were booked at the jail earlier this month. One of them, Harrison Floyd, was held there after not being able to reach a bond agreement before he was released on Wednesday.
The Fulton County Jail is also known by the nickname “Rice Street” as it is notoriously overcrowded and in poor repair, with a reputation for “unhygienic living conditions”.
“It’s miserable. It’s cold. It smells. It’s just generally unpleasant,” veteran defence attorney Robert G Rubin told The New York Times. “Plus, there’s a high degree of anxiety for any defendant that’s in that position.”
The facility was considered state of the art when it was built in 1985 to hold 1,300 inmates. In recent years, it has been forced to house closer to 3,000 people, with an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report from September 2022 observing that hundreds of people were being held at Fulton County Jail for longer than 90 days because they had not yet been formally charged or could not afford to pay off their bail bond.
Another 117 had been held for more than a year because they had not been indicted and two more for over two years for the same reason, the report said.
Fallon McClure, deputy director of policy and advocacy at the ACLU of Georgia, told the BBC the jail had “essentially been overcrowded since it was built”.
“This has just been a perpetual cycle over and over for years,” she added, expressing pessimism that a long-touted $1.7bn replacement containment facility would ever be built.
“There’s been a lot of talk of cleaning it up. We have not really seen or heard anything particularly significant. It seems like a lot of posturing.”
Another recent report by the Southern Center for Human Rights recounted outbreaks of Covid-19, lice, scabies and cachexia, an affliction otherwise known as wasting syndrome, which hits those who are “significantly malnourished”.
Multiple people have died in Fulton County custody this year, according to the BBC, including 19-year-old Noni Battiste-Kosoko in July and a 34-year-old man who was found unconscious in a medical unit cell.
In September last year, another inmate, Lashawn Thompson, 35, died after being housed in a cell his lawyer likened to a “torture chamber”.
The prisoner had spent three months in the jail’s psychiatric ward before he passed away and an independent medical review concluded that while his “untreated decompensated schizophrenia” had played a role in his death, so had dehydration, malnutrition and severe body infestation with insects, including lice and bed bugs.
“We’re just letting people literally rot away there,” Sarah Flack, another local defence attorney, lamented to Insider.