The Fulton County Board of Commissioners approved a request that has been sitting on the agenda for several weeks to change the cell locks at the jail.
Chief Jailer Col. Mark Adger said the outdated locks can be tampered with in a manner that allows inmates to essentially disable them and escape from their cells.
“They were racking the doors — putting objects between the door and the door frame, then violently slamming the door, causing the door to come out of alignment,” he said, thus rendering the locks less effective or totally useless.
In 2011, there were 46 incidents of inmates being able to leave their cells, five of which resulted in serious violent attacks.
District 5 Commissioner Emma Darnell asked how many incidents could be expected in 2013 if the locks were replaced.
“We expect to have none — zero — related to locks,” Adger said.
In fact, a trial run of sorts has already taken place, where some of the locks in the jail have already been replaced.
“We’ve had zero (incidents) since we implemented the test locks,” Adger said.
Darnell asked whether ramping up training would decrease or eliminate the tampering.
“I would say if you implement better training specific to areas where we have our major concerns with the locks, you can decrease the number of incidents, which we’ve been able to do,” he said.
However, due to staffing, all areas cannot be continuously watched. “In an indirect supervision jail, you’re still going to have areas where inmates can tamper with the locks,” Adger said.
The vote to replace the locks was 5-2, with Darnell, District 6 Commissioner Joan Garner, District Commissioner Liz Hausmann, District 4 Commissioner Tom Lowe and Chairman John Eaves in favor.
Voting against was District 2 Commissioner Robb Pitts and District 7 Commissioner Bill Edwards.
According to county spokesperson Jessica Corbitt-Dominguez, the locks will be replaced over the course of roughly seven months.
The replacement will be done in two phases. Two different sets of locks are used in the facility — swinging cell door and sliding cell door. The swinging cell doors are used on floors one through five and the sliding cell doors are used on the maximum security levels of six and seven. Corbitt-Dominguez said the financing of the $5 million will be similar to a lease purchase agreement and is categorized as infrastructure improvements.