The Justice Policy Board — a group of city and county leaders working with local organizations to develop arrest and incarceration diversion resources — will have to finish its jail population review before Fulton County is allowed to begin moving inmates into the Atlanta City Detention Center.
By a vote of 9-5, the Atlanta City Council shut down legislation that would’ve stopped the need for a jail population review before the lease can begin. The legislation was introduced by Post 1 At-Large council member Michael Julian Bond, who has called the study a last-minute stalling tactic to delay the lease from going into effect.
“How can you say that you’re there to defend their human rights when you’re content to let them stay on the floor for more than a minute,” Bond said, addressing lawyers from the ACLU and Southern Center for Human Rights.
Central to the debate over whether to require the jail population review is the notion that the overcrowding in the Fulton County Jail can only be addressed by starting the lease immediately. Detractors of this characterization — such as District 4 council member Jason Dozier, who introduced the amendment to require the study — say the review is a necessary part of due diligence.
“We’re on day 63 of a 90-day mandate,” he said, referencing the time allotted for the study to be conducted. “This work could’ve been done months ago had our partners at Fulton County done what we asked them to do, which is share their data with the Justice Policy Board.”
When the amendment was originally introduced, the council voted 7-7. Council President Doug Shipman cast the tie-breaking vote to include the update in the final bill.
At the latest City Council meeting, Post 3 At-Large council member Keisha Sean Waites pushed back on the idea that by voting against the legislation, she and other council members were trying to delay the lease.
“The discussion surrounding the overcrowding of the Fulton County jail, in my opinion, has been mischaracterized,” Waites said, adding that she spent hours explaining to constituents on the phone that she was not against getting inmates off the floor because she is in favor of the study.
District 9 council member Dustin Hillis and District 7 council member Howard Shook voted not to repeal the amendment after previously voting against the study request. Hillis, who serves as co-chair of the Justice Policy Board, announced after the vote that the plan is for the jail population review study to be presented at the Public Safety and Legal Administration Committee’s meeting on Nov. 14.