Atlanta City Prison Enters Next Chapter

Atlanta is almost The empty detention center could become a place where people living with substance abuse, mental health or homelessness issues can find help and avoid jail under a proposal from Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Why is this important: The year before the pandemic and protests over police killings and systemic racism, Bottoms announced that the city would close the Atlanta detention center.

  • The city assembled a task force that spent months thinking about the future of the facility and explored its destruction to build housing, turn it into a community center and other uses. Fulton County officials have expressed interest in using the space to reduce overcrowding in his jail.

Details: According to a draft of the proposal obtained by Axios, the city would partner with the Policing Alternatives and Diversion Initiative, the non-profit organization that helps people avoid arrests for small-scale offenses and then helps them find services such as counseling, housing and placement.

Fulton County and Grady Memorial Hospital are also reportedly partners.

  • The revamped center will help people navigate wards, receive elective medical care, rest in sobering-up rooms, and find help with case management and basic legal issues, as well as food, laundry and showers, among other resources.
  • The cost of upgrading parts of the prison for the pre-arrest diversion center would be around $ 3 million. Annual operating costs would be just over $ 2.5 million and would be matched by Fulton County.
  • The diversion program could reduce the number of bookings in Fulton and City prisons by more than 10,000, the AJC recently reported, citing an analysis by Judge Fulton Robert McBurney.

Moki Macias, the executive director of PAD, told Axios that the sobering-up room could be operational by the start of next year and that the diversion center could be operational by next summer.

  • How much of the prison will be devoted to the diversion center, an effort PAD has been making for years, is undecided, Macias said.

What they say : In a tweet, Bottoms said the proposal was “another step towards thoughtful criminal justice.” A spokesperson for Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat said the office had not seen a copy of the legislation and could not comment.

  • Macias says, “The way you respond to public safety concerns is to give people more options. This brings us to a whole new level of options for people who might otherwise have ended up in prison rather than receiving services. “

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