The Fulton County Commission voted on Nov. 15 to abolish an inmate welfare fund at the troubled Fulton County Jail and direct money from the commissary and inmate phone calls into the county’s general fund.
The commission approved abolishing the fund on a 4-3 vote after a motion to table the issue by Commission Marvin Arrington failed.
At its Nov. 3 meeting, the board had questioned expenditures made with the fund that included more than $1 million in vehicle purchases. A forensic audit was requested at that time, which would take eight to 12 weeks, according to county auditor Anthony Nicks.
Commission Chairman Robb Pitts said Sheriff Pat Labat, the chair of a committee that is supposed to oversee the fund, agreed with the audit request.
Arrington said he was concerned about abolishing the fund without knowing what the unintended consequences would be.
“Is it in the best interests of the inmates to abolish the Inmate Welfare Fund?” Arrington questioned. “Does it need more oversight? Absolutely.”
Commissioner Bridge Thorne was also concerned about abolishing the fund stating that inmates might not get the things they needed such as water or blankets when it’s cold. She wanted to see more guidelines put in place on how the fund could be used.
Interim Chief Jailer Col. Curtis Clark said approximately $6 million remained in the inmate welfare fund. Emergencies such as water outages and fires have required extensive purchases, while bedding and mattresses have also been purchased using the fund.
Clark said he agreed changes needed to be made but said a procedure should be in place for the Fulton Sheriff’s Office to access the funds when necessary.
The commissioners did not offer a process for the Sheriff’s Office Jail Division to follow. The question was called, which required an immediate vote on the motion to abolish the fund without additional discussion.