The Reimagining Atlanta City Detention Center (ACDC) Task Force has submitted its final report to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms offering options on what to do with the city jail and related policing policies.
In support of community organizers’ call for closure of the jail, as well the declining number of daily inmates and increased operating costs, Bottoms signed legislation in May 2019 to create the task force.
The jail closure has been hotly controversial in Buckhead. At a town hall forum held there last year, Bottoms was heavily booed for no longer accepting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees in the city jail in exchange for fees. Mary Norwood, chair of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods and Bottoms’ former mayoral campaign opponent, has stumped against the closure and said the city jail should be given to the county. That idea was previously blasted by the Mayor’s Office as political “self-aggrandization” and a divisive belief in “locking THEM up.”
The task force envisions the jail site as a multi-service center that would create housing opportunities in a range of forms: affordable housing, supportive housing, sobering beds, shelter beds, safe-haven beds, or crisis-intervention beds for people experiencing a behavioral health episode that does not require hospitalization. The space would also house “compatible, revenue-generating activities” that are consistent with the mission and values of the space, according to a press release.
The task force recommended four options for the jail property in Downtown Atlanta, ranging from changing the facade ($40 million) to completely rebuilding the site into a Center for Equity campus ($108 million). Another would create a “Downtown Anchor” ($65.4 million) that would also allow mixed uses, while the other is to completely demolish the building and transform the land into a park or memorial (no estimated cost).
The task force is also recommending changes to city ordinances. They include: the repeal of quasi-criminal city ordinances where the behavior prohibited by the ordinance is already criminalized by a parallel state statute; repeal of city-only ordinances related to animal control; repeal of a city ordinance regarding discharge of a firearm within city limits that is now covered by other criminal charges; repeal of an open container on a sidewalk ordinance; conversion from quasi-criminal to civil of city ordinance violations relating to housing, building code, zoning, and other business and land use-related ordinances; and conversion to civil of city-only ordinances that relate to violating public park rules and other public space violations.
“More than a year ago, I signed legislation to begin reforming our approach to public safety through a collaborative process to close and reimagine ACDC as a resource for empowering our communities,” said Bottoms in the press release. “Thank you to the members of this Task Force for your tireless efforts to ensure that all who call Atlanta home have not only a second chance, but for most, a first chance to have access to opportunity. Together, we can build a smarter and fairer system to equip Atlantans with the tools needed for success in the 21st Century.”
Bottoms’ proposed fiscal year 2021 budget will include an amendment to reduce the Department of Corrections $18.9 million to $3.6 million until the jail closes; move $13.5 million and the majority of the jail staff to the Mayor’s Office of Constituent Services to broaden and enhance community-based initiatives; and $1.85 million to other city departments.
The Task Force consisted of 52 members from a cross-section of individuals from the City of Atlanta, Fulton County, DeKalb County, service providers, community organizations, residents, the academic community, the business community, the faith community, public safety representatives and elected officials.
View the full report at this link.
–John Ruch contributed