Fulton County, Georgia, Sheriff Patrick “Pat” Labat on Friday announced measures “to address an outbreak of infectious illnesses” at the county jail – including moving more than 600 inmates to other counties, a statement said.
The measures are the result of a “preliminary investigation” into the death of Lashawn Thompson – an incarcerated man who died in the jail last year, the announcement posted on Facebook said. Thompson’s family says his death was the result of unsanitary conditions at the facility and complications from insect bites, CNN has reported.
The sheriff said Friday that “an emergency expenditure of $500,000” has been approved to address the jail’s “infestation of bed bugs, lice and other vermin.”
The sheriff said protocols for security rounds will also be updated to help mitigate the outbreak as well as “transferring more than 600 inmates to other counties in an effort to help relieve overcrowding, at an average cost of approximately $40K/day.”
It’s unclear where or when the incarcerated persons will be moved.
The announcement began with the sheriff’s office expressing condolences to Thompson’s family and saying the sheriff has launched “a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death.”
On Thursday, Thompson’s family held a news conference to demand a criminal investigation into his death and for the jail to be closed.
Thompson died while in custody last September. His family’s attorney, Michael Harper, blamed unsanitary conditions and complications from insect bites for Thompson’s death.
Holding up photos purporting to show conditions in Thompson’s jail cell, Harper said, “The cell he was in was not fit for a diseased animal. This is inexcusable and it’s deplorable.”
Harper said that Thompson had been in custody on a misdemeanor assault charge since June of 2022 and was housed in the psychiatric wing of the jail because he suffered from mental health issues.
Brad McCrae, Thompson’s brother, told reporters Thompson was 35 years old, was born in Winter Haven, Florida, and had been living in Atlanta on and off over the last couple of years.
When asked by a reporter what he thought when he saw images of his brother’s body and the conditions of his cell, McCrae said, “It was heartbreaking because nobody should be seen like that. Nobody should see that. But the first thing that entered my mind was Emmett Till.”
The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Thursday, “The manner and cause of death was listed as ‘undetermined’ by the county medical examiner. A full investigation was launched into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Thompson’s death.”
The statement went on to say that the results of that investigation would determine if any criminal investigation is warranted.
The sheriff’s statement acknowledged the “dilapidated and rapidly eroding conditions” at the jail and said that Labat continues to call for the building of a new jail.
The family has not filed a lawsuit at this time.