By Britney Cao and Wayne Chan
ATLANTA, GA— More than 60 civil rights organizations—including the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, Gideon’s Promise, Human Rights Watch, the Sentencing Project, and Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund—sent a letter to Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and the Atlanta City Council requesting the reversal of a decision to lease beds at Atlanta City Detention Center (ACDC).
Seven-hundred beds at ACDC are currently set to be leased to Fulton County to ease jail overcrowding—but civil rights groups are asking for the city to consider alternatives not involving more incarceration.
Leasing the beds to Fulton County, they’ve charged, is a step back from proven alternatives such as diversion initiatives, cash bail reforms, and plans to turn the city jail into a center for equity and justice.
The Atlanta City Council should at least withhold action on the lease until the results of the Jail Population Review Committee’s 90-day jail population review are available, the groups have suggested.
“We continue to support Atlanta city leaders’ vision of addressing crime through community engagement, diversion from mass incarceration, and sentencing alternatives where appropriate,” said ACLU of Georgia Deputy Director of Policy and Advocacy Fallon McClure.
McClure added, “We do not believe the Fulton County lease of the detention center supports these goals, and hope Atlanta city leaders will honor their commitment to a thoughtful review of jail population data, and alternatives to adding more jail beds to address the issues raised by Fulton County and Sheriff Labat.”
“For years, Atlantans have known that more jails don’t make us safer. In response, the city’s leaders have invested in solutions that help Atlantans live in freedom rather than expanding the jails that take people away from their families and jobs and make success and stability so much more difficult,” argued Deputy legal director and director of the Trone Center for Justice and Equality, Yasmin Cader, ACLU.
“We urge Atlanta city leaders to remain committed to a path that lifts people up rather than locking them up. More jails will not make Atlanta safer. Instead, Atlanta will continue to become a safe and just city by working as a community to support parents and children, connect people with services, and promote the conditions that enable everyone to thrive. More collaboration, more services, and more respect will get us there together; more jails will not,” Cader added.
Senior director of advocacy, Nicole Porter, The Sentencing Project, said, “Jailing people for issues related to poverty and substance use is a driver of mass incarceration. Jail is not a solution — it only exacerbates underlying social policies that further marginalize vulnerable people.”
Porter noted, “Atlanta adopted model policies that advance proven alternatives to incarceration to support residents and strengthen community safety solutions. Leasing the city jail to Fulton County would reverse Atlanta’s gains in creating a more just and humane city. The mayor and city council must fully commit to community-based safety solutions.”