(Note: Atlanta’s mayor has already signed legislation to close the city’s jail)
The letter pasted below was sent to the mayor of Atlanta recently and distributed on May 28, 2020. I have added a few educational links to the letter. My links are noted with an *asterisk.
The letter below:
Dear Members of the Atlanta City Council:
We, as *immigrants’ rights organizations, write this letter to urge you to support an upcoming budget amendment that will finally close the city jail and redirect the $18 million currently allocated to the Atlanta Department of Corrections (ADOC) in the proposed 2020-21 city budget to services to promote the health and wellness of all Atlantans.
To date, while *the City of Atlanta terminated the contract with ICE, ACDC to this day still incarcerates our community members, primarily on minor or petty offenses. It is time to end the cruel, unnecessary, and unhelpful incarceration of all human beings at ACDC. The city’s commitment to close and *repurpose the jail cannot be reconciled with allocating millions of dollars to its operation in the coming year. At a time of public health crisis and a loss of millions in the City’s revenue, it is unconscionable for the City of Atlanta to spend $18 million to continue to operate a jail that sits mostly empty and is already slated for closure and repurposing.
We ask that you support the amendment to zero out the FY21 budget for the Department of Corrections and announce a date certain for the jail’s closure.
Just two years ago, many of our organizations testified before the City Council on the human rights violations occurring at the Atlanta City Detention Center (ACDC), and called for terminating the contract with ICE and closing the jail altogether. These violations, described at length in Project South and Georgia Detention Watch’s 2018 Report titled, Inside Atlanta’s Immigrant Cages, highlighted: lack of medical care and mental health care, unsanitary living conditions, lack of edible food, abusive labor practices, lack of religious accommodations, verbal abuse by officers, overuse and abusive use of solitary confinement, and more.
After years of advocacy from community organizations to close the detention center and end immigration detention in Atlanta, the Mayor created an advisory committee to make a recommendation as to whether the City of Atlanta should end the contract with ICE that allowed for the detention of immigrants at ACDC. After hearing from directly impacted individuals who *testified to the horrid conditions at the facility and urged the Mayor to shut the facility down, the advisory committee recommended that the mayor end the contract to detain immigrants with ICE. The committee recognized that detaining immigrants at ACDC was inhumane.
*Terminating the contract with ICE was an important step towards Atlanta becoming a more welcoming city – one that prioritizes community-based care and support over punitive spaces for warehousing human beings. In the year that followed, we heard from organizers and residents throughout the city of Atlanta who are ready to see the jail closed, and the Mayor committed to shutting down and repurposing ACDC. Over the past two years, we were proud to see Atlanta praised, both locally and nationally for the collaborative development of a bold and compassionate plan to divest from incarceration and invest in real solutions for Atlanta’s marginalized communities.
Now more than ever, we must put an end to locking people in cages for petty offenses such as jaywalking and disorderly conduct, wasting desperately needed resources, criminalizing people for being poor, and making us all less safe.
We respectfully ask that you support our proposal and vote to zero out this year’s budget for the Department of Corrections and set a date for the jail’s closure.