ATLANTA — When former President Donald Trump surrenders to authorities at the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta this week, he will undergo a process that thousands of people booked at 901 Rice St. NW have experienced.
It is unlikely that Trump or his co-defendants will spend any time in a holding cell or among the general population in “Rice Street.” Most likely, they will be fingerprinted, have mug shots taken and perhaps receive a medical exam, The Washington Post reported.
“Unless someone tells me differently, we are following our normal practices,” Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat told reporters earlier this month. “It doesn’t matter your status. We’ve got mug shots ready for you.”
Still, processing a high-profile booking subject like Trump, who will be led into the jail by the Secret Service, will be unprecedented.
“We’re in uncharted waters at this point,” Chris Timmons, a former prosecutor and now an Atlanta attorney, told CNN. “We haven’t had a former United States president or anyone with Secret Service protection booked into the Fulton County jail.”
The 2,500-bed jail has the reputation for being a scary, dangerous place, veteran defense attorney Robert G. Rubin told The New York Times.
“It’s miserable. It’s cold. It smells. It’s just generally unpleasant,” Rubin told the newspaper.
According to prison records, in 2022 the Fulton County Jail had 11 fires, 534 fights, 114 stabbings and at least two homicides.
Here are some things to know about the Fulton County Jail.
The current facility, which was dedicated on Oct. 5, 1989, is located about four miles northwest of the courthouse where a grand jury handed up indictments against Trump and 18 other defendants on Aug. 14.
According to the jail’s website, the original facility was a five-story brick building constructed in 1904. It was located on Pryor Street in downtown Atlanta and was built to hold 400 inmates. A larger facility was built on Peachtree Street in 1927, according to the website. It would become known as the Atlanta City Jail.
A new facility was built on Jefferson Street in 1961.
A riot at the jail in 1971, when inmates protested poor living conditions and overcrowding, resulted in extensive damage to the facility and several injuries.
Fulton County voters approved a $44.3 million bond for a new jail on March 13, 1984. Expenses pushed the final costs to approximately $50 million.
Seven inmates have died at the jail this year, including two in the past month. That includes Alexander Hawkins, 66, who was found unresponsive in a medical unit on Thursday, according to WSB. He was booked into the Fulton County Jail on Aug. 5, where he was held on a $5,000 bond for a shoplifting charge, the television station reported.
On Aug. 4, 34-year-old Christopher Smith was also found unresponsive in a cell, according to WSB. He had been in the jail awaiting trial for nearly four years on charges that included armed robbery, street gang terrorism and cruelty to children.
Another detainee, 35-year-old Lashawn Thompson, was found dead in his cell in September 2022, allegedly covered in bites from bed bugs and other insects.
“It’s clear to me that it’s time, past time, to clean house,” Labat said in a statement released on April 17, 2023.
The Fulton County Commission approved a $4 million settlement earlier this month for Thompson’s family, according to WSB.
In the aftermath of Thompson’s death, Labat asked the Fulton County Board of Commissioners for $5.3 million to help clean, sanitize and make other changes to the jail, the television station reported. The board approved funding.
The jail has had problems with overcrowding, along with violence, poor air conditioning and overflowing toilets, the Post reported.
Two months after the Rice Street prison opened, guards were giving prisoners extra blankets and coffee because of a faulty heating system and snowstorms in the South, according to the newspaper.
Last year, Labat attempted to show county leaders the “humanitarian crisis” inside the jail, collecting hundreds of weapons made from chunks of the walls and loading them into four wheelbarrows and rolling them into a public meeting, according to the newspaper.
“What you’ll see in these wheelbarrows are shanks. Right now, they total over 1,100 shanks,” Labat said. “These are pieces of the building that have been ripped apart, fashioned into knives, fashioned into deadly weapons.
In May 2023, an inmate allegedly dug a hole through a shower wall, according to a news release from the sheriff’s office. Burrowing into a cellblock, the inmate allegedly stabbed another prisoner.
“It presents a constant challenge for us to eliminate things like this from access to the inmates,” interim Fulton County Jail commander Curtis Clark said in the news release. “This jail has clearly outlived its useful life.”
Last month, severe storms knocked out power, forcing the jail to run spot coolers for a weekend during a hot Georgia summer, WSB reported. The generator did not cool the entire facility satisfactorily, leaving some inmates still sweltering in the heat.
At least two songs on Spotify are called “901 Rice Street,” the Times reported. One, by rapper Latto, has the name of the address accompanied by an expletive. A line from a rap by Killer Mike refers to being “Locked in like Rice Street without a bond,” according to the newspaper.
In 1999, the Southern Center for Human Rights sued the jail and its medical provider over its care of HIV prisoners. Foster v. Fulton County, which was settled by consent order in 2001, led to the replacement of the jail’s for-profit medical provider with one that offered HIV specialists.
The plaintiff, Ruben Foster, had been taking an anti-retroviral regimen before his arrest. In his lawsuit, Foster claimed that the jail’s doctor refused to administer those medications. Foster survived despite the lack of medications.
In 2004, an inmate named Frederick Harper filed a handwritten complaint, alleging that a guard had knocked him unconscious while he was handcuffed, the Post reported.
That same year, U.S. District Judge Marvin Shoob took control of the jail away from the sheriff. The department regained control of the jail in 2015, according to the newspaper.
Last month, the Department of Justice opened a civil rights investigation into the jail, citing the death of Thompson as the impetus for the probe.
“Those circumstances were far from isolated,” U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke said in a statement on July 13. “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.”
Famous bookings, notable inmates
Without a doubt, Trump will be the most famous person booked into the Fulton County Jail. However, other high-profile people have been processed at the facility.
In addition to Trump, others indicted this month include Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Mark Meadows, Kenneth Cheseboro, Jenna Ellis, Ray Smith, David Shafer, Sidney Powell, Cathy Latham, Jeffrey Clark, Robert Cheeley, Mike Roman, Shawn Still, Stephen Lee, Harrison Floyd, Trevian Kutti, Scott Hall and Misty Hampton.
According to the jail’s website, record producer Phil Spector was held at the jail on murder charges in 2003.
Wayne Williams, a freelance photographer convicted of two murders in 1982 and linked to 29 other homicides and disappearances in the Atlanta area from 1979 to 1981, was an inmate at the jail’s pretrial detention center from 1982 to 1984. He was transferred to the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Center on Jan. 31, 1984. Williams was sentenced to life in prison for the deaths of Nathaniel Cater, 27, and Jimmy Ray Payne, 21.
Rapper Gucci Mane was booked into the jail on March 26, 2013, for allegedly striking an Army staff sergeant with a bottle at the Harlem Nights club 10 nights earlier. The musician, whose real name is Radric Davis, was sentenced to three years in prison in September 2014.
A month earlier, Davis was sentenced to 39 months in federal prison for illegal possession of a firearm.
Rapper Scarface was arrested in Atlanta on Sept. 9, 2015, moments after receiving a lifetime achievement award at the BET Hip-Hop awards ceremony. The rapper, whose name is Bradley Jordan, was booked into the Fulton County Jail on child support charges.
On Sept. 15, 2016, comedian Micah “Katt” Williams, a Georgia native, was booked into the jail on a charge of criminal damage to property in the second degree.
Information from online newspaper databases was used in compiling this report.
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