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Introducing the Center for Wellness & Freedom

Updated: Mar 14, 2019



Last night, the #CommunitiesOverCages #Close the Jail ATL Campaign offered a vision and architectural renderings of the city's extra jail repurposed as a Center for Wellness & Freedom.

Thank you to Campaign Alliance Members and all all 50+ people who came to show their support and learn more about the campaign, including Councilmember Matt Westmoreland!

The meeting also included Jarred Williams of the Katal Center for Health, Equity, & Justice and Deanna Van Buren of Designing Spaces/Designing Justice who shared their expertise on repurposing prisons and jails across the country.

The meeting comes just days after John Legend tweeted his support for the campaign that was launched last year, and a design process for the repurposing of the facility, led by formerly-incarcerated people.

The Mayor has already committed to closing the jail, and a meeting with her a few weeks ago had promising results. With previous campaign wins that reduced arrests for marijuana and sex work, the average daily population of the jail has dropped as low as 70.

The envisioned Center for Wellness & Freedom incorporates ideas from a recent membership meeting of Women on the Rise wherein formerly-incarcerated women imagined their dreams for a repurposed facility.

Women on the Rise members present drawings of the Center for Wellness & Freedom at a membership meeting in January

The renderings, which organizers point out are to “spark community imagination,” include a rooftop garden, solar panels, offices for non-profit organizations, and community meetings spaces replacing the bars and concrete on the current structure.

Organizers say that a formal community-led Design Team process will ensure that the people of Atlanta, not corporate interests, determine what happens with the building and the funds. They expect to be sharing proposed legislation as early as next week.

“We have met with city leaders, including the Mayor and all signs point towards its closure.” says Xochitl Bervera, Director of Racial Justice Action Center, co-leader in the campaign. “However, whether the jail becomes a center for wellness and freedom and how community will contribute to that process is current question on the table. The recent news about the Amazon deal falling apart in New York is another example of community no longer willing to tolerate back door deals and developers deciding our future. The closure, repurposing, and reallocating of the $32.5 million jail budget must be a community-led process that engages the very people who have been harmed by what this building has been for the last 24 years.”

“The extra jail has never been about improving public safety,” said Marilynn Winn, Women on the Rise founder and Director. “It’s been used to hide people who are really struggling. Let’s turn the building in something that helps people instead of hiding them.”

The campaign hopes to name the building after Joan Garner, former Fulton County Commissioner and Black LGBTQ activist who spent decades championing rights for people living with HIV/AIDS.

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