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BREAKING: Atlanta City Council Passes Legislation toward Closing and Repurposing City Jail

Updated: May 22, 2019

Creation of Task Force gives voice to the formerly incarcerated and seeks to “right the wrongs” of past harmful criminal justice policies



The Alliance for the Campaign to #ClosetheJailATL has declared a major victory after the Atlanta City Council voted yesterday to approve a resolution that begins the closure of the Atlanta City Detention Center and the repurposing of the facility into a Center for Equity, Freedom, and Wellness. The 11 to 1 council vote came just two weeks after the 43 member Alliance held a Day of Redemption at City Hall to urge support from council members for the resolution.

The resolution was introduced by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms with sponsorship from Council Members Dickens, Westmoreland and 9 others and was developed in collaboration with community strategists and formerly incarcerated leaders from Women on the Rise and the Racial Justice Action Center. The approved resolution establishes a Task Force to be appointed within the next 30 days. Over the next 12 months, the Task Force will convene to develop recommendations and develop a plan to close and repurpose the facility for the benefit of the larger community, particularly those who have been harmed by the jail and the policing policies which have filled it for decades.

“After months of organizing, meeting with city officials, and sharing our ideas for a reclaimed Atlanta with stakeholders across the city, this vote of approval by the city council is a major step towards redemption and healing,” says Marilynn Winn, campaign visionary and Director of Women on the Rise. “Formerly incarcerated women in partnership with the Mayor and Council took action in Atlanta that many thought was impossible. Yesterday’s vote sets a new precedence for how Atlanta leaders share power with the people, work collaboratively with its residents, and develops solutions to problems impacting our city’s most vulnerable communities. This is an exciting time for Atlanta.”

No longer will Atlanta be in the jail business,” said Mayor Bottoms. “Today, we have taken another critical step forward in the march for criminal justice reform by beginning the work to repurpose our jail to serve the people of Atlanta as a Center for Equity. The process will be an inclusive one to ensure stakeholders and those most impacted by the criminal justice system have a seat at the table.

Council Member Dickens, who sponsored the legislation said, "This is an example of thoughtful, persistent collaboration. The advocates, council, and mayor are together on the need to explore all options for transformation of the detention center."

Council Member Matt Westmoreland, co-sponsor, said, “We are striving to build a city where our policies are aligned with our belief that stable and healthy families and communities are the lynchpin to community safety and wellness. Transforming this facility to benefit our community and reinvesting funds into services and programs that enhance the quality of life for all residents will make Atlanta a stronger city for everyone who calls it home.”

“Now that we have cleared this significant hurdle and established a Task Force focused on the future of the facility and how it will shape the future of Atlanta, our campaign shifts towards building greater education, awareness, and excitement about this project throughout Atlanta and the country,” says Xochitl Bervera, lead campaign strategist and Director of the Racial Justice Action Center.

“Closing and repurposing a massive 400,000 square foot correctional facility in the South is historic. The action taken yesterday by the council, the leadership of the Mayor over the last year, and the vision of marginalized people stands as a powerful example that anything is possible when you empower and involved those most impacted by systemic oppression, racism, and the harms of the criminal justice system.”

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