Thirteen local immigrants rights organizations sent a letter to the Atlanta Mayor and City Council last week demanding the city "zero out the FY21 budget for the Department of Corrections and announce a date certain for the jail’s closure."
The city’s commitment to close and repurpose the jail cannot be reconciled with allocating millions of dollars to its operation in the coming year. At a time of public health crisis and a loss of millions in the City’s revenue, it is unconscionable for the City of Atlanta to spend $18 million to continue to operate a jail that sits mostly empty and is already slated for closure and repurposing.
The letter, organized by Project South with signatories including Georgia Detention Watch, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, SPLC Action Fund, and Women Watch Afrika, comes two years after many of the organizations testified before the City Council on the human rights violations happening at the jail, which was holding immigrants through a city contract with the federal government. The violations were the subject of the 2018 report, Inside Atlanta’s Immigrant Cages, and included a lack of medical and mental health care, unsanitary living conditions, abusive labor practices, lack of religious accommodations, verbal abuse by officers, overuse and abusive use of solitary confinement, and more.
This report, along with community pressure and grassroots organizing, led to the termination of the contract with ICE.
But the groups want to see the facility completely defunded in the 2021 city budget and a firm date announced for the jail's closure.
Terminating the contract with ICE was an important step towards Atlanta becoming a more welcoming city - one that prioritizes community-based care and support over punitive spaces for warehousing human beings. In the year that followed, we heard from organizers and residents throughout the city of Atlanta who are ready to see the jail closed, and the Mayor committed to shutting down and repurposing ACDC. Over the past two years, we were proud to see Atlanta praised, both locally and nationally for the collaborative development of a bold and compassionate plan to divest from incarceration and invest in real solutions for Atlanta’s marginalized communities.
Now more than ever, we must put an end to locking people in cages for petty offenses such as jaywalking and disorderly conduct, wasting desperately needed resources, criminalizing people for being poor, and making us all less safe.
You can read the letter in full here.