ACLU of Georgia

Press Release: Civil Rights Organizations ask Atlanta Mayor and City Council to Reverse their Decision to Lease Beds at the City Jail

For immediate release: October 3, 2022 
Press contact: Dorrie Toney, media@acluga.org 
Qainat Khan, ACLU, qkhan@aclu.org

ATLANTA — Today, more than 60 national and local civil rights organizations sent a letter to Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and the Atlanta City Council asking them to reverse a decision to lease 700 beds at the Atlanta City Detention Center (ACDC) to Fulton County to ease jail overcrowding. Leasing the jail to Fulton County is a step back from proven alternatives to incarceration, including diversion initiatives, cash bail reforms, and plans to turn the city jail into a center for equity and justice. The Atlanta City Council should not take any action on the lease until it can consider the results of the Jail Population Review Committee’s 90-day jail population review.

The civil rights organizations, including national groups such as 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, are asking Atlanta leaders to instead continue pursuing a path that has made the city a national leader in criminal legal reforms that contribute to community safety and wellness.

Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat has indicated that he will ask the City Council to accelerate the process to lease the jail. The city council accepting his suggestion could possibly circumvent the jail population review, which was a requirement included in the lease agreement.

The City Council is expected to consider the Sheriff’s request during a meeting today.

The following statements can be attributed as noted:

Fallon McClure, deputy director of policy and advocacy, ACLU of Georgia

“We continue to support Atlanta city leaders’ vision of addressing crime through community engagement, diversion from mass incarceration, and sentencing alternatives where appropriate.

“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.”

Yasmin Cader, deputy legal director and director of the Trone Center for Justice and Equality, ACLU

“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.

“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.”

Nicole Porter, Senior Director of Advocacy, The Sentencing Project

“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. 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.”

Read the letter.

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