Atlanta City Council passed a resolution Monday to create a task force that will make suggestions for repurposing the Atlanta City Detention Center and ending the facility’s role of housing inmates.
The resolution, approved 11-1, calls for the task force to evaluate potential uses for the facility located on 254 Peachtree St., where detainees are held for violating city ordinances and minor traffic violations.
The task force is also charged with gathering community input and presenting recommended changes to the facility to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, according to the resolution. The task force will be comprised of at least 25 people, including council members, officials in various city departments and residents.
“The process will be an inclusive one to ensure stakeholders and those impacted by the criminal justice system will have a seat at the table,” Bottoms said in a statement.
The selection process is estimated to take at least 30 days, according to the resolution. Task members are expected to present their findings to Bottoms within a year.
“This is going to take a nice step in the right direction for us,” Councilman Andre Dickens said after presenting the resolution at Monday’s meeting. “It would save lives and potentially move people in the right direction.”
Councilman Michael Julian Bond voted against the resolution, arguing the Old Atlanta Prison Farm should be included since it is also a former correctional facility in need of rehabilitation. That facility, located on Key Road in an unincorporated part of Atlanta in DeKalb County, sits on Intrenchment Creek Park and is near a gun range used by Atlanta Police Department and military personnel.
The prison farm hasn’t been in use since 1965.
Councilwomen Carla Smith and Natalyn Archibong, who represent District 1 and 5 respectively, argued that adding the prison farm to the mix would change the goal of the task force.
“It’s just got so much going on that I’m afraid if we add this in, it will muddy every water,” Smith said at the meeting.
“This prison farm property is very different,” Archibong said, agreeing with Smith, “and (if it’s included) the task force would need to be reconstituted.”
Talks of repurposing the city jail have been ongoing since a resolution calling for closing the jail was first introduced by several council members in August, but it was never voted on.
In that time, Bottoms has made strides in criminal justice reform, including eliminating the cash bond requirement for some low-level offenders who otherwise would sit in jail because they can’t afford bail.
Last June, she signed an executive order prohibiting the city’s jail from accepting new detainees of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE). Bottoms said the order was in response to President Donald Trump’s immigration policies that can separate children from their families.
Women On the Rise, a nonprofit geared toward incarcerated people, received a $150,000 grant to help with the design process of the jail’s transformation, according to the resolution.
Founder Marilynn Winn said her organization had been in ongoing discussion with Bottoms about repurposing the jail. Winn previously told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she sees the jail becoming a wellness and freedom center that would provide residents with a one-stop shop for employment, healthcare and child care assistance.
The city has operated a detention center since the 1950s. In 1995, the city opened the existing location — a $56 million facility with 1,300 beds. The jail’s population has steadily declined but maintained 360 employees and an operating budget of $33 million in the fiscal year 2018.
At a town hall earlier this year, Bottoms said the jail now houses an average of 70 inmates.
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