ATLANTA — The Fulton County Medical Examiner is conducting an autopsy on the latest inmate to die at the troubled Fulton County jail and may release a preliminary cause of death on Thursday.
Whatever the cause, it is part of a series of deaths at that old jail.
And everyone agrees the jail is in crisis, with solutions still a long way off.
The inmate who died Wednesday was identified by the Sheriff’s Office as Michael Anthony Holland, 36.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, Holland was found unresponsive in his cell, and jail staff attempted to perform lifesaving measures, but he was pronounced dead later at Grady Memorial Hospital.
Holland had been in jail since May 2023, waiting to find out if the DA’s office was going to prosecute him on charges of Aggravated Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer and Obstruction.
Holland is the eleventh inmate to die in the jail in the past year–the first death in 2024.
“One already this year may not be a good sign,” said Fulton County Commission Chair Robb Pitts.
Pitts is as frustrated as everyone else at the millions of extra dollars the county has been spending just trying to keep the old jail from constantly falling apart. The conditions remain dangerous for everyone inside.
11Alive asked Pitts, “Are you satisfied with the speed at which the wheels of government are turning toward improving overall conditions for inmates and staff, as well?”
Pitts responded simply, “Absolutely not.”
On top of that, the total jail population is about 20% over capacity, making conditions even worse.
Pitts does not support building a new, bigger jail, which could cost an estimated $1.75 billion.
One of the possible remedies he supports is the county taking over the old City of Atlanta jail, downtown, “because I see that, quite frankly, as a possible solution in place of a new jail, utilizing that facility to its fullest extent.”
He agrees with critics who place much of the blame for jail overcrowding on the District Attorney, Fani Willis, saying that she has been too slow at clearing the backlog of inmates who are in the jail simply waiting to find out if she is going to indict them and put them on trial like Michael Anthony Holland was.
“And until that’s corrected,” Pitts said, “we can build a 5,000-bed jail or a 10,000-bed jail. We’re going to have the same problem.”
Willis has said she needs more staff and more money from the county to investigate and prosecute faster and to clear the backlog faster.
“I mean, we’ll get a request from (the Sheriff) and the DA pretty much on a weekly basis for additional funds,” Pitts said. “Funding is not always the answer.”
Solutions the county decides to put in place, he said, are ultimately up to taxpayers and voters to approve.