Group Represents Rising, United Majority
Twenty-five organizations including New Georgia Project and GA STAND-UP submitted a letter to 7 Councilmembers calling on them to close the Atlanta City Detention Center by December 31st. Councilmembers Archibong, Brown, Dickens, Ide, Farokhi, Smith, Westmoreland and Moore all separately received the letter on November 24th. The organizations represent members of the Communities Over Cages: Close the Jail ATL Alliance whose members are long-time voters and those who have decided to vote for the very first time in 2020. The letter and its signatories are below:
Dear Atlanta City Council Member,
We hope this letter finds you well. We are writing to request that you take immediate action and draft, introduce, and pass legislation that will close the Atlanta City Detention Center by year’s end and ensure its demolition so that it may be replaced with a Center for Wellness and Freedom.
We, the undersigned organizations, represent thousands of diverse Atlantans. Our memberships come from many neighborhoods and NPUs. We are mutiracial, predominantly Black and Brown, low income and middle income, trans and LGBQ as well as cis and straight, are working multiple jobs and are unemployed, are housed and homeless, are young and middle aged and elders. We are victims and survivors of crime and violence and we are formerly incarcerated. Our members are long-time voters and those who have decided to vote for the very first time in 2020. We are a rising, united majority.
We have united as the Alliance for the Communities Over Cages: Close the Jail ATL Campaign to make sure that the city divest from harmful punitive and ineffective systems and invest in the resources and supports we need to thrive by closing the Atlanta City Detention Center and ensuring it is repurposed - or razed and replaced - with a Center for Wellness and Freedom. Many of us have worked tirelessly on this issue for years. We would be happy to give you the lengthy background should you desire it, from our work against police violence to our work to create the Pre-Arrest Diversion Initiative, to our work to end the city’s unconscionable contract with ICE, to our work to end cash bail, to our work to create and guide the Reimagine ACDC initiative. Progress in improving this city’s approach to safety and wellness has been made because of the deep commitment of community -- and too often despite the lack of leadership and action by this Council.
Let us be clear, despite comments made by some of your colleagues publicly, and the idea of many in the community: the jail is NOT yet closed. Despite the fact that legislation that created the Taskforce to Reimagine ACDC was passed and signed back in May of 2019, despite a year-long, rigorous community engagement process that you all were invited to be part of at one time or another, despite a glossy report filled with excellent recommendations from the community (including policy recommendations squarely in your purview), despite promises and public proclamations, the jail remains open.
We write to request your leadership and action immediately to rectify this situation.
Our communities were very disappointed to see some of your recent votes on issues related to bail reform and our jail. Most of you have committed to us that you support the closing of the jail, that you stand with us on this issue. So it was confusing to see you, as a Council, pass yet another law that will lock people up in that very same jail. We appreciate Council Members Archibong, Brown, and Smith, who voted “no” on the recent legislation and we hope and expect that the damage done by that vote can be offset by legislation you introduce to ensure the jail’s closure by December 31st.
As you all know, we have been working with Mayor Bottom’s Office on this issue since the beginning and we understand that there has been a deferring to the Administration’s leadership on this issue. However, the time for that has passed. It is unacceptable to go into 2021 with this issue still unresolved. We don't know what political games are at play here, and truthfully, we don’t care. Your leadership is needed. This is urgent.
We respectfully request you to take action immediately. Our members, our communities and our organizations are taking close note of your response to this and to your voting record. Street racing and youth selling water on our street corners have commanded much of your attention in the last few months, inspiring multiple pieces of legislation and hours of debate. And yet this initiative, with its millions at stake, with thousands of Atlantans who have not just been yelling about this for a week or a month, but working diligently toward the outcome for years -- has found no leaders, yet, among you. We look forward to that changing now.
We look forward to hearing from you, working with you, and seeing the legislation to close and demolish the jail voted on (whether introduced in committee next week or through a vote for immediate consideration) at the December 7th Full Council Meeting. We, like many of you, are focused on important electoral races that will determine the future of this whole nation, and yet we found time to contact you because this matter is of grave importance to us and to our constituencies.
Please confirm receipt of this letter and share whether or not you are committed to introducing and passing such legislation by this date by sending an email to: Marilynn@womenontherisega.org.
In addition to the above requested response, please contact Robyn Hassan at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a meeting to discuss further.
Attentively and Sincerely,
Marilynn Winn, Executive Director, Women on the Rise
Xochitl Bervera, Director, Racial Justice Action Center
Nse Ufot, Chief Executive Officer, New Georgia Project
Helen Butler, Executive Director, GA Coalition for the People’s Agenda
Andrea Young, Executive Director, ACLU of Georgia
Deborah Scott, Executive Director, GA STAND-UP
Nancy Flake Johnson, President and CEO, Urban League of Greater Atlanta
Elizabeth Wilson, Executive Director, Georgia Micro Enterprise Network, Inc.
Jan Christiansen, Executive Director, Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Adelina Nicholls, Executive Director, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights
Maurice Mitchell, National Director, Working Families Party
Sara Totonchi, Executive Director, Southern Center for Human Rights
Devin Barrington Ward, Lead Organizer, Movement 4 Black Lives Atlanta
Mary Hooks, Co-Director, Southerners on New Ground
Toni-Michelle Williams, Executive Director, Solutions NOT Punishment Collaborative
Roberta Myers, Director of State Strategy, Legal Action Center
Emery Wright & Stephanie Guilloud, Co-Directors, Project South
Marika Lamoreaux, Co-Chair, Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ)
Nana Gyamfi, Executive Director, Black Alliance for Just Immigration
Dianne Mathiowetz, Coordinator, Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition
Victoria Raggs, Director, Atlanta Jews of Color Council
BT, President and Founder, Trans(forming)
Bend the Arc Atlanta
Steering Committee, Georgia Detention Watch
Rev. James Woodall, Georgia NAACP