Atlanta to lease 700 jail beds to Fulton County
After years of discussion about the future of Atlanta's jail, city officials have decided the best use for the South Downtown lock-up right now is…to remain a jail.
Driving the news: Fulton County and the city have come to a four-year agreement that will allow the county to lease up to 700 beds at the Detention Center from the city to relieve crowding at its northwest Atlanta jail.
- The proposed four-year agreement has to get final approval from City Council and the Fulton County Board of Commissioners.
According to the city's news release, the agreement calls for Fulton County to transfer about 250 detainees from its annex in Union City and up to 450 people from other facilities to the Atlanta jail.
What they're saying: Mayor Andre Dickens said in a statement that he still wants to transition the detention center for other uses, but "we are confronted by a real and immediate crisis of overcrowding at the Fulton County Jail."
- "Many of these detainees are Atlanta residents, and our conscience calls us to act," he said.
Catch up quick: City Council in 2019 passed a resolution that called on closing the Detention Center and creating a task force to determine its future, according to the AJC.
- The 11-story, 1,300-bed detention center only uses a few floors to house fewer than 50 people each night, most of whom are there for nonviolent, minor offenses, the AJC reported.
- Possible new uses included transforming it into a community center or razing the site to build housing.
- In February, the Council moved ahead with legal groundwork to turn the detention center into a 24-hour facility where non-violent people can access mental health counseling, treatment or other resources instead of going to jail.
Fulton Sheriff Patrick Labat and District Attorney Fani Willis have called for the facility to continue operating as a jail.
- The Fulton Sheriff’s Office, which runs the county jail, did not respond to requests for comment.
The other side: Moki Macias, the executive director of the Atlanta Policing Alternatives and Diversion Initiative, which redirects people facing arrest to substance abuse and mental health services, told Axios that moving ahead with a diversion center is the "first step to transform the entire facility" from its original purpose of incarceration.
- She also told Axios that any revenue the city makes from leasing jail beds to Fulton County would be "incompatible with [PAD's] mission and our values."
- The Southern Center for Human Rights, which has been critical of the county for conditions at its facilities, said in a statement that the lease "will only create a new location for pain and suffering in the city, rather than holding Fulton County accountable for its failure to responsibly manage its own jails."
Yes, but: The city of Atlanta says its plan to launch a Center for Diversion and Services at the repurposed jail is still on track to begin in 2023 and is not affected by the agreement.
- Atlanta will soon begin seeking proposals for alternate uses for the building that will begin once the lease ends with Fulton County.
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