The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice is launching a “comprehensive investigation” into conditions at the Fulton County Jail.

During a Thursday press conference, Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, said the investigation would look at living conditions, access to medical and mental health care, use of excessive force, and violence between inmates inside the jail.

The investigation comes on the heels of the death of inmate Lashawn Thompson, who was found dead in a mental health unit cell covered in bed bugs and insects last September. An autopsy report concluded that Thompson had died of “severe neglect,” according to Clarke.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke

Clarke said federal law authorizes investigations when there is evidence of constitutional violations of inmates’ civil rights. She said the investigation would look closely at alleged discrimination against people with psychiatric issues and violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

“Based on an extensive review, we found significant justification to open an investigation,” Clarke said.

Clarke said evidence shows the Fulton County Jail is “dilapidated and eroding,” and that overcrowding conditions would also be part of the investigation.

“The level of violence is deeply concerning, with reports of one stabbing per day,” Clarke said, noting there were three homicides reported inside the jai in 2022. “Last year, 200 weapons were recovered, and inmates are crafting shanks from the crumbling walls of the jail.”

Clarke noted that 87% of the Fulton County Jail population is Black, so there is a racial justice component to the investigation.

She said a core principle of the justice system is that “people held in prisons and jails do not surrender their constitutional rights at the door.”

U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. Ryan Buchanan, said during the press conference that “allegations of filthy housing, insects, and rampant violence call for an urgent investigation.”

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.