Video ad pushes for closure of Atlanta city jail, targets local politicians

The city's detention center on Peachtree Street was built in 1995. Christina Matacotta/christina.matacotta@ajc.com
The city's detention center on Peachtree Street was built in 1995. Christina Matacotta/christina.matacotta@ajc.com

Credit: Christina R. Matacotta

Credit: Christina R. Matacotta

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms presented outgoing Corrections Chief Patrick Labat with Phoenix Award — the highest honor the Mayor of Atlanta can bestow upon an individual.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms presented outgoing Corrections Chief Patrick Labat with Phoenix Award — the highest honor the Mayor of Atlanta can bestow upon an individual.

A new video advertisement hitting the airwaves Monday takes aim at local politicians who have been resistant to efforts to close the mostly empty Atlanta City Detention Center downtown.

The ad was paid for by the Working Families Party and done in partnership with the Communities Over Cages: Close the Jail ATL Campaign, a group led by formerly incarcerated women that has pushed for the jail’s closure.

“Almost two years ago, Atlantans celebrated the city’s announcement to close the city’s extra jail and build a center for equity, wellness and freedom in its place,” the 30-second ad begins.

“But now, some politicians are pushing to keep the jail open, so they can keep more of us locked up,” it continues. It specifically shows Councilman Michael Julian Bond, former mayoral candidate and councilwoman Mary Norwood and new Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat.

The ad points to the role the jail could play in this year’s races for Atlanta mayor and City Council.

Norwood and Labat have both publicly supported the idea that the city should sell its jail to Fulton County, arguing it would help alleviate overcrowding issues at the county’s detention facility on Rice Street. Bond has also called for the city to work with the county and use space at the city jail to improve conditions for Fulton detainees.

Bottoms announced in May 2020 that she wanted to close the jail and replace it with a “center for equity” that provides social services. Only a few dozen detainees stay at the 11-story facility every night, though it has space for 1,300 inmates. A city-commissioned task force recommended demolishing the building.

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Early this year, members of Bottoms’ team presented a plan to the City Council for how it wanted to go about closing the jail, but it was met with hesitation from some Council members.

A measure was introduced to close the detention center within 15 months; that resolution could be revisited after the Council returns from recess next week.

The new ad ends by urging viewers to call their councilmembers and tell them to approve the closure of the jail.

The Close the Jail ATL Campaign said the five-figure ad buy will air on TV and YouTube from April 12 to 26.

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