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Report released by Research|Action details history of city’s extra jail

The Communities Over Cages: Close the Jail ATL Campaign met with consultants from Bloomberg and Associates, and representatives from the Mayor’s Office last week to discuss the closing of the Atlanta City Detention Center and repurposing into a Center for Wellness & Freedom.

The campaign is led by Women on the Rise and the Racial Justice Action Center, and has the support of 13 allied organizations across the city including the Southern Center for Human Rights, Southerners on New Ground, Georgia Equality and 9to5 Georgia. The goals of the campaign are to close the jail, repurpose it into a Center for Wellness & Freedom, and reallocate the $32.5 million dollars back into services that will benefit the community. The jail has over 1100 beds, but thanks to reforms such as ending cash bail, reclassifying marijuana, the creation of the Pre-Arrest Diversion Initiative, and the end to the contract with ICE, the daily population is down to fewer than 150 people a night-  all held on city ordinance and traffic violations such as driving with broken taillights, urinating in public, or drinking within a 100 feet of a liquor store.

The jail is all but slated for closure at this point and leaders of the campaign, as well as the city, are looking for potential investors to help bring their vision to reality. Bloomberg and Associates recently stepped up as consultants and technical assistance providers.

During the meeting, participants looked at a recent report from Research|Action that details the history, finances, and construction of the jail. The report was written thanks in part to the leadership of Kate Dietrick and in partnership with the Communities Over Cages campaign. You can read the report here.

The report also discusses past debates about selling the facility, dating as far back as 2002, though the facility is only a little over 20 years old.

Since the early 2000s there have been a series of public debates about the ethics, purpose, use, cost, and operations of the ACDC, especially in moments of budget crisis. Jail operations, including overstaffing, understaffing, the use of overtime, and even the corruption and ethics of staff and leadership, have been a part of many of these conversations. Debate has also raised the ethical question of why we lock up a population whose underlying issues are often related to drug use, mental health, and poverty.

During the meeting last week, Ms. Marilynn Winn, Director of Women on the Rise, also spoke of the history of the facility, which was built right before the 1996 Olympics specifically to hide the city’s poor and homeless from the Olympics visitors and viewers.

Women on the Rise and the Racial Justice Action Center are now working on drafting legislation to introduce to Atlanta City Council on January 7th, which will create a Design Team to determine the future of the facility.

For more information on the Communities Over Cages Campaign and important upcoming dates in City Council, don't forget to follow Women on the Rise and Racial Justice Action Center on Facebook, and the campaign on Instagram.

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