If former President Donald Trump were facing the booking process that newly charged criminal defendants in Fulton County typically experience, he might find himself lingering for hours at the jail waiting for his fingerprints and mug shot to be taken.
Even by the standards of local jails, the Fulton County jail on Rice Street has a reputation for troubled conditions for inmates. Last month, the US Justice Department launched a civil rights investigation into living conditions, access to health care, violence against detainees and possible discrimination against those with psychiatric disabilities.
But the treatment that defendants receive when being booked and processed on criminal charges in Fulton County varies drastically, case by case. The system gives discretion to prosecutors, the magistrate judges who often preside over the first court appearances and the superior court judges who have been assigned the underlying case.
Trump is expected to turn himself to the jail this afternoon to be booked on more than a dozen charges stemming from his efforts to reverse Georgia’s 2020 election results.
While officials have vowed to treat Trump and his associates as they would any defendant, that is likely impossible due to the security precautions required for a former president and the high-profile nature of some of his co-defendants.
“We’re in uncharted waters at this point,” Chris Timmons, a former prosecutor and now a law partner at Knowles Gallant Timmons in Atlanta, told CNN. “We haven’t had a former United States president or anyone with Secret Service protection booked into the Fulton County jail.”
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis gave Trump and his co-defendants in the case, which alleges they engaged in a racketeering scheme and other crimes in their efforts to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results, until Friday at noon ET to turn themselves in voluntarily. The window for self-surrender has given the defendants time for planning and for potential outreach to prosecutors to discuss how the process will work.
Custody at Fulton County jail: The Justice Department last month launched a civil rights investigation into the jail which has been the site of multiple deaths on the premises.
US Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke pointed to the death last year of LaShawn Thompson, whose family has blamed unsanitary conditions, including a bed bug and lice infestation, as contributing to his death.
Three jail officials stepped down earlier this year, after a preliminary investigation into Thompson’s death.
Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat has sought more than $2 billion in county funding to build a new jail and has acknowledged the difficulties in meeting safety and health standards in the current facility, which, from the day that it opened, was not large enough to accommodate the population that comes through it.