An officer guards the entrance to the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, Georgia.
An officer guards the entrance to the Fulton County Jail in Atlanta, Georgia. Image Credit: REUTERS

Atlanta: Unsafe. Unsanitary. Teeming with insects.

When Donald Trump surrenders on Thursday to face charges he tried to overturn the 2020 election he is expected to do so at an Atlanta jail where conditions are so notorious they are under investigation by the Justice Department.

The 77-year-old former president and the 18 co-defendants in the election racketeering case are to be booked at the Fulton County Jail, also known as the Rice Street Jail, according to the sheriff's office.

Standard booking procedure is for a defendant to be fingerprinted and to have a mugshot taken before they are released on bond - which has already been set at $200,000 in Trump's case.

Trump did not have to undergo the indignity of having a mugshot taken during his three previous arrests this year: in New York on charges of paying hush money to a porn star, in Florida for mishandling top secret government documents and in Washington on charges of conspiring to upend his 2020 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

But Fulton County Sheriff Pat Labat told reporters this month that when it comes to a booking at his jail, "it doesn't matter your status."

"We have a mug shot ready for you," Labat said.

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Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, and the other co-defendants have until noon (1600 GMT) on Friday to surrender voluntarily to the charges they conspired to overturn the billionaire's election loss to Biden in Georgia.

Trump said in a post on his Truth Social platform that he would be going to Atlanta on Thursday to be arrested, but did not give a time.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump Image Credit: AFP

In a fundraising appeal, he said it would take place at a jail "which has been described as a 'humanitarian crisis'" where "guards have collected over 1,000 shanks fashioned from the crumbling walls."

Two co-defendants in the racketeering case, Trump attorney John Eastman and Scott Hall, a bail bondsman, were booked at the Fulton County Jail on Tuesday and released on bond.

The Fulton County Sheriff's Office has set up a tight security perimeter around the facility, closing streets and restricting access.

"When Former President Trump surrenders: there will be a hard lockdown of the area surrounding the Rice Street Jail, meaning no ingress or egress during that time," the sheriff's office said in a statement.

'Unsafe, unsanitary'

The Justice Department opened a probe in July into conditions at the Fulton County Jail, where a number of detainees have died in recent years.

Attorney General Merrick Garland said it was being launched "based on serious allegations of unsafe, unsanitary living conditions at the jail."

Added US Attorney Ryan Buchanan: "Recent allegations of filthy housing teeming with insects, rampant violence resulting in death and injuries, and officers using excessive force are cause for grave concern and warrant a thorough investigation."

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the jail currently houses more than 2,500 inmates, double the amount it was originally designed to hold in 1989.

Fifteen inmates died at the jail last year, the newspaper said, and there have been four deaths reported in the past five weeks alone.

Fulton County recently approved a $4 million settlement with the family of a 35-year-old man with mental health problems who was found dead in his cell covered in lice and bedbugs.

Following his booking, Trump will be subject to a court arraignment where he will be formally charged and enter a plea.

Judge Scott McAfee, who is presiding over the case, can decide whether Trump needs to appear in person at the arraignment or whether he can appear virtually.

Fani Willis, the Fulton County district attorney who brought the case, has asked for the arraignments to take place during the week of September 5 and for the trial to begin on March 4, 2024.

Others facing racketeering charges in the alleged Georgia conspiracy include Trump's former personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.