November 19, 2004
|ATLANTA - Students at Georgia State University College of Law are helping rectify problems caused by severe overcrowding and understaffing at the Fulton County Jail by interviewing inmates about their situations and addressing necessary issues.
The Fulton County Jail Project is the inaugural project of the law school's new Pro Bono Recognition Program, which encourages law students to engage in public service. "The project gives students the unique opportunity to explore the systemic criminal-justice issues affecting a large number of inmates at the jail," says law professor Anne Emanuel, associate dean of the law school. "We greatly appreciate the cooperation of the Fulton County Jail's administration and staff members in helping make this project a reality."
According to a lawsuit filed against Fulton County in June by the Southern Center for Human Rights concerning jail conditions, the facility holds nearly twice the number of inmates it should. In addition to understaffing and overcrowding, other frequently cited problems include plumbing and laundry hygiene as well as a series of escapes and release-date mistakes.
About 40 second- and third-year law students are now participating in the project, responding to more than 400 inmate requests for assistance. Before beginning to meet with prisoners Nov. 1, students had to complete extensive training. They are addressing such situations as jail conditions, inmates whose release dates have past and those who may require judicial hearings because of questionable mental health or intellectual capacity. Students also are helping answer inmates' questions about charges and court dates as well as communicating with family members concerning bond and child-support payments.
Law school faculty members provide guidance to participating students.