For Immediate Release 

June 20, 2016

Media Contact: Xochitl Bervera 404-861-0756 | xochitl@rjactioncenter.org

For online version, click here.

 


Atlanta and Fulton County Join Forces to Design Innovative New Public Safety Initiative 

 

New initiative launched at community event offers solutions instead of punishment for residents struggling with mental illness, drug addiction & poverty 

 

ATLANTA - On Thursday, June 23rd, from 1pm-7pm at the Loudermilk Conference Center, the community will gather to launch a unique effort to develop an innovative pre-arrest diversion initiative for Atlanta and Fulton County. The initiative aims to divert people out of the criminal justice system whose infractions are driven mainly by addiction, mental illness, and poverty and who would be better served by quality social services. The effort would reduce recidivism, lower the number of people in our expensive and ineffective criminal justice system, and improve public safety and our communities’ quality of life. 

 

The launch makes Atlanta/Fulton County the 5th jurisdiction in the nation and the 2nd in the South to embrace pre-arrest diversion. Participants at the 6/23 forum will bring together stakeholders who don’t often sit at the table together, including reformers, judges, prosecutors, law enforcement, elected officials, community leaders, and those individuals who will be directly impacted by the new program. 

 

WhatRe-Thinking Justice Community Symposium: Launch of the Atlanta/Fulton County Pre-Arrest Diversion Initiative Design Team and Planning Process. 

 

When: Thursday, June 23rd, from 1pm-7pm. Symposium runs 1:00 – 5:00 PM, followed by a reception and the announcement of the newly appointed members of the Design Team. 

 

Where: Loudermilk Center, 40 Courtland Street NE, Atlanta, GA 30303 

 

Who: Community members, law enforcement and case managers from operating pre-arrest diversion programs in Seattle, Santa Fe, and Fayetteville, NC, City Council Member Kwanza Hall, representatives from Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard’s office, Superior Court Judge Constance Russell, Liz Frye of Mercy Care’s Street Medicine, Fulton County Commissioner, Marvin Arrington, and more (see attached Program for a full list).

 

Background

For years, in Atlanta and Fulton County, residents, businesses, and city and county leaders have been frustrated with what has seemed like an unsolvable problem of recidivism – of the same people cycling in and out of our local jails and courts with no positive effect on public safety and at great cost to tax payers. Local advocates for the mentally ill and the addicted and formerly 

incarcerated people joined the chorus of frustrations from a different angle. 

They have long complained that our local criminal justice system targets the most vulnerable – not the most dangerous – and needlessly destroys lives and families. 

 

But late last year, in an unprecedented collaboration, various stakeholders came together to authorize a Design Team and Planning Process to create a version of one of the nation’s most innovative and successful programs aimed at solving exactly these problems.

 

Pre-arrest Diversion was implemented in Seattle, WA, Santa Fe, NM, and Albany NY and has shown positive results. A recent evaluation of the Seattle LEAD program showed close to 60% reduction in recidivism for program participants. Cost savings is also an incentive. Captain Sanchez from Santa Fe has noted that a year in jail costs taxpayers $41,000 per inmate while the average price for a LEAD participant is $6,000 a year.

 

The Atlanta/Fulton County Pre-Arrest Diversion Initiative aims to divert people out of the criminal justice system whose infractions are driven mainly by addiction, mental illness, and poverty and who would be better served by quality social services. It promises to reduce recidivism, lower the number of people in our expensive and ineffective criminal justice system, and improve public safety and communities’ quality of life. In other jurisdictions where its being implemented, it has also shifted the culture of policing, reduced the number of low level arrests, and improved police-community relations. The symposium features prosecutors and case managers from Seattle’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program – the first of its kind in the nation which launched in 2011 – as well as police captains from Santa Fe and North Carolina and a prosecutor from King County. In addition, national representatives from foundations such as the Open Society Foundation (OSF) who have invested heavily in these initiatives in recent years will present. Atlanta/Fulton County was one of 5 jurisdictions in the nation to receive a planning grant from OSF for the design process. Local presenters include City Council Member Kwanza Hall, representatives from Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard’s office, Superior Court Judge Constance Russell and the director of psychiatry at Mercy Care.

 

Further details, including full day schedule, are online here

 

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