June 7, 2019 Fulton County- Atlanta City Detention Center on Friday, June 7, 2019 on Peachtree Street in Atlanta. The detention center was built in 1995 and last renovated in 1999. Christina Matacotta/christina.matacotta@ajc.com
Photo: Christina R. Matacotta
Photo: Christina R. Matacotta

City Council decides Atlanta’s jail task force can accept donations

As efforts to close and repurpose the Atlanta City Detention Center continue, the Atlanta City Jail task force can now accept funds from organizations that want to help the city’s efforts in transforming the jail.

On Monday, the Atlanta City Council voted to allow the task force to accept donations. Total donations cannot exceed $25,000.

The task force is already receiving pro-bono services from non-profit consulting firm Bloomberg Associates. Oakland-based real estate agency Designing Justice + Designing Space, which is working on two other jail repurposing projects, is being paid about $300,000 to assist with the project. That amount was raised by local social justice group Women on the Rise and Racial Justice Action Center.

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Councilmember Antonio Brown thinks the cap of $25,000 in donations is a moderate sum. “We wanted to be conservative in our approach for taking in money in regards to work that the city is doing,” said Brown, who sponsored the legislation and sits on the task force. “Even though the work is great, we want to be mindful that this is for the people and not led by any special interest groups.”

In addition to cash donations, the task force will also be allowed to accept donations of goods or services. Brown said national organizations have reached out to the task force to offer assistance, but he did not provide a list of those organizations.

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According to the City Council’s legislation, the task force must provide a detailed report on donations to the Atlanta Ethics Office, city’s finance department and council members. The report will include donor names and the number and type of donations.

Brown said the cash donations could be used to fly in outside help, particularly city officials who have already transitioned their own jails to new uses.

In the meantime, the 25-member task force, which formed in July, is still determining a new use for the jail, which has 1,314 beds and holds an average of 70 inmates each night.

Closing the jail is part of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ ongoing criminal justice reform efforts. In May, the City Council voted to create the task force, which is charged with finding best uses for the jail. They must present their findings to Bottoms by February.

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