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Fulton County Jail, where Trump will be booked, is being investigated by DOJ

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Former President Trump's surrender and booking at the Fulton County Jail has put renewed attention on that facility. The jail itself is overcrowded and dilapidated. And, as Chamian Cruz from member station WABE reports, it's also under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.

CHAMIAN CRUZ, BYLINE: Last month, Kristen Clarke with the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department said it's looking at living conditions at the Fulton County Jail.

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KRISTEN CLARKE: People held in jails and prisons do not surrender their constitutional and civil rights at the jailhouse door.

CRUZ: The inquiry started after an independent autopsy found that 35-year-old Lashawn Thompson died in his cell covered in bedbugs. He had been arrested on a misdemeanor charge just three months earlier.

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CLARKE: Those circumstances were far from isolated. Following Mr. Thompson's death, evidence emerged that the mental health unit where he died was infested with insects and that the majority of people living in that unit were malnourished and not receiving basic care.

CRUZ: The jail was built for about 1,100 inmates but now holds 3,600. According to Clarke, 87% of the jail population is Black, and the vast majority have not been convicted. They are awaiting bail hearings or are unable to post bail. And a third of individuals in the jail likely have mental health issues, says Alton Adams. He's the county's chief operating officer for the jail.

ALTON ADAMS: Arguably, if you were to pull one lever to be able to say, can we find a place for those individuals to be dealt with - treated in a different way that solves the problem long-term because we know jail isn't the right place...

CRUZ: Six people have died at the jail this year. In March, Georgia's chief justice, Michael Boggs, blamed judicial backlog for some of the overcrowding, and advocacy groups have called for diversion programs instead of incarceration. But Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat says the county needs a new jail.

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PAT LABAT: It's a human crisis, and I have been begging for the resources for 887 days. I'm really, really tired of begging for money to do my job.

CRUZ: This was at a county commission meeting. The county has spent more than $5 million this year to improve conditions and is looking to fund a new jail at a cost of about $1.6 billion.

For NPR News, I'm Chamian Cruz in Atlanta.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Chamian Cruz