BUCKHEAD COUNCIL OF NEIGHBORHOODS
March 11, 2021
Zoom Meeting: 6:00 – 7:00 pm
6:00 – 6:05 Gordon Certain, Secretary – Adoption of Minutes
6:05 – 6:30 Sheriff Pat Labat: Presentation on Fulton County Jail and the City of Atlanta Detention Center
6:30 – 6:40 Questions for Sheriff Pat Labat: Please submit to: email@example.com
6:40 – 6:43 State Senator Sonya Halpern
6:44 – 6:47 State Representative Betsy Holland
6:48 – 6:51 City Councilmember Natalyn Archibong
6:52 – 6:55 City Councilmember Michael Julian Bond
6:56 – 6:59 City Councilmember Amir Farokhi
The meeting attendance will be provided at a later date.
Some Background information About the Atlanta City Detention Center
The abbreviation ACDC is used repeatedly below.
ACDC stands for the Atlanta City Detention Center. The ACDC is located at 254 Peachtree Street.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms has recommended that the ACDC be completely deactivated and repurposed to address different objectives.
See “Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms Announces the Reimagining Atlanta City Detention Center Task Force Recommendations” (6/12/20)
Mary Norwood: Good evening everyone. We’re early and we’ve got everyone muted because we are expecting a large crowd. So, if you want to talk for a minute, just please press the spacebar like I’m doing right now, and it will temporarily unmute you. But please be muted once the presentation starts so we make sure we get good, clean audio when we get started and have no background noise. If you have questions about tonight’s meeting, submit them to questions@ BuckheadCouncil.org. As for any issues that don’t pertain to tonight’s meeting, I will make sure it gets an answer in the next 24 to 48 hours. I already have two that have come in that are not germane to tonight, but I will make sure those questioners and questions get answered.
Shelby Cobb: May I ask a quick question regarding the Joint Task Force. Did you have a good response about the City Council Task Force?
Mary Norwood: To utilize the city’s Detention Center? Yes, that was very effective. People were wonderful, and it was remarked both in the chat (because I watched) as well as with the council members themselves talking about this.
Shelby Cobb: I’ll thank my friends who called in. Thank you.
Mary Norwood: We have been joined by Fulton County Commissioner Lee Morris. Thank you for joining us.
Lee Morris: Glad to be here, Mary. I do have something at 6:30 and I’ve got to head out then.
Mary Norwood: Thank you for being here. And thank you President Felicia Moore for being here. We appreciate it. Thank you, Council Members Farokhi, and Matzigkeit for being here. We appreciate it very much.
Councilman Westmoreland is here. Thank you, Councilman Westmoreland.
Thank you all for being here at the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods meeting March 11th. We are going to have a very quick meeting. It will be one hour – no more.
Mary Norwood: Gordon Certain, you’re on top for the minutes, (Gordon didn’t respond.)
Jeff Clark: I think he’s having some difficulty getting his Zoom session to work.
Mary Norwood: Well then what we will do is we’ll go straight to Sheriff Labat. Sheriff Labat you’re our main speaker tonight. For the sake of hearing your wonderful presentation. I am not going to give you an introduction. I will ask everyone to go to your website and to Fulton County’s website to learn more about you, but I think what you have to say about the jail and about the City’s Detention Center is more important than a five-minute introduction. So, Sheriff Labat, you’re on.
Sheriff Pat Labat:
First of all, good evening, and thank you all and certainly, to our madam chair. I always appreciate the opportunity to come before our community and have a conversation. We are moving as aggressively as we can on several different fronts – to include putting more deputies on the street. But one of the things that we need to focus on, as we are just past 70 days into the year, is treating people humanely and looking at the space we are currently operating in and moving to really look at how we 5 can jointly if not lease but purchase the City of Atlanta Detention Center. You’ll see my thoughts on it as we move through the presentation’s slides:
With overview as you see it is for the ones that have not already had an opportunity to hear the presentation. We will move from where we are to the information. We’ve gotten most recently regarding the ACDC and then certainly the opportunities as we get ready to move forward.
And again, you’ll see what honest communication will get us. I think people are coming to the table to see after 30 years what we can do jointly between Fulton County and the City of Atlanta.
The next slide is an overview that talks about how we are uniquely positioned and to really close the gap. For years Council member Norwood, you’ve talked about not just restorative justice, but being able to work as stakeholders between the county and the city to focus on such agreements. This I feel will clearly take an opportunity and help us from a wholistic perspective to look at what Criminal Justice Reform looks like. We’ve been doing this over the years but more importantly we once again have a unique opportunity. I do ask people to be mindful that there are 15 cities inside Fulton County and in particular this focus is on what our perceptions have been and how we can move into this next generation – if you will – specifically with Fulton County in the City working together.
As we talk about where we currently are, one of the things that is important to note is that we just got out from the Federal Consent Decree in 2015, We often say that the county jail has been overcrowded from the day it was built. It remains so today; we have 230 people that are sleeping on – what you see in the picture: makeshift beds. That’s as well as a current jail population of 2942. That number has fluctuated over the last couple of days. We have 2,500 people at the actual facility at 901 Rice Street and we need to include the 238 young ladies out at the South Annex. There are also other people across the State, depending on what programs are in place. And as you we go through this; we’ll talk about mental health and how that has had a huge impact on our really on law enforcement as a whole but equally as important as the jail.
The Rice Street facility is actually 32 years old. The South Annex is 20 years old. Between the two we need capital improvements. But I also make sure people understand when we have this conversation a very honest conversation about where we are. ACDC will not solve the County’s problem with respect to the jail. But it has begun a very robust conversation about building a new facility and what that looks like as we get ready to move forward. So, you know, I really appreciate everyone leaning in and making sure we talk to our constituents from all legislative levels because it will take all of us to get this done. But again, and people ask often, “Why did I reach out to Council members as well as Fulton County Commissioners to have these tours? And I know that question comes up quite often, but what I found is that past administrations have not gotten a true sense of where we are. So, I invited legislators to come in to experience what I was experiencing inside the first 30 days and I thought it important for us to have an honest and transparent conversation.
Covid-19 has not made anyone’s life easier in any way, it has made it even more difficult at 901 Rice Street to keep people, our customers, if you will, socially distanced in a meaningful way. Having ACDC will allow us to do that to begin that conversation as and for the ones that have not had an opportunity to understand where we are with respect to the physical structure. The Fulton County Jail was built in a fashion that employs indirect supervision. Meaning that they’re the easiest way to think about it is–as you see this unit on the picture, when that officer leaves that unit, (Generally: we teach this in law enforcement and in a correctional environment the biggest and the baddest person is normally in charge.) But with ACDC there are 22 housing units and each unit has an officer in the unit 24-hours seven days a week weekends and holidays. And so, with that kind of oversight you end up with less inmate-on-inmate assaults, less inmate on staff assaults, less contraband and a more humane environment. And in that space as well–because of the architectural opportunities, we will be able to space out a little more.
Quite simply, as you heard me mention when we start talking about the Fulton County situational analysis, our quarantining has been very challenging at best. And so, we’ve partnered with not just the CDC, Grady Hospital, Emory Hospital as well as our actual providers to figure out how–beyond the lack of space, what’s best for us to do and so one of the things that we’re focusing on as the state continues to open up and more vaccines are available. At what point will detainees or our customers be able to receive a vaccine? So, we’re looking at that. We have had a spike in numbers due to Covid-19. We’ve had situations where individuals come in and then refuse the test. They are quarantined immediately. And then, those that have been diagnosed or tested positive for Covid-19, we end up quarantining them as well. Those numbers grow. So right now, there are 52 positive tests. Now since March of last year, we’ve only had six people hospitalized and so we’ve been doing well, but certainly we need to improve or have additional space to improve that.
As we continue to talk about Fulton County and where we are, you see right here, we’ve had over 300 detainees test positive as well as about 84 staff members. So, we are focusing on where we are trying to get to. One thing about the Atlanta City Detention Center as you may know, I was Chief for the last 10 years. Worked at 20 years prior to that and so 31 years total with the city. Now one thing we focused on is our accreditation and not just treating people humanely, but really the best practices and a correctional environment usually derived from the American Correctional Association and that accreditation the other piece if you recall I as the chief I made the offer to the county, and now as the Sheriff, I’m hoping we can have an offer from the city. When we start talking about our youthful offenders again, many of you may or may not know youthful offenders are 17, not yet 18, but in and of themselves have to be housed sight and sound away from any other detainees that are 18 or older. One of the unique opportunities we have is that whether it be the youthful offenders; whether be our female population; whether it be mental health help; we can be more accurate and have more engaged programmatic opportunities at ACDC simply, by the way it’s structured. Again, I mentioned earlier about how we phase or move young ladies to the female detention area in the South Annex in Union City. So again, we, as a sheriff’s office, continue to have conversations around mental health, have become the de facto mental health institution, one of the largest in the state. So currently right now we have 85 individuals that are out to other programs throughout the state to include trying to receive additional mental health, and here’s one more telling sign quickly before we move on right now. We have detainees that have been in the Fulton County Jail in custody since 2015 and now they are charged with one, if not more than one, of the seven deadly sins–but in some in many instances, 12 they have been found mentally incompetent to stand trial and so that then prolongs that mental health situation that we find ourselves in. We’ve even gone and taking a proactive look over the last two months as to partner with Emory Hospital and make sure people understand that. We also have a program that in the best of all worlds will ultimately try and get those types of individuals in our custody prepared and able to move forward with their trial. We will try to get them the treatment they need to obtain the mental capacity to be able to stand trial, so we’re trying to take care of those situations as we continue as well.
So, one of the things that we talked about at ACDC often is how we have gone from how the numbers have continued to decrease as well as the services that are provided decreased by extension. There are some opportunities–I’ve said this publicly and privately–when it comes to the average daily population, actually that it’s lower than that since January the average daily population at ACDC is 20 people. And so, while they are certainly laws that have changed and the way that the city does business. Again, that simply provides more opportunity for us to get people off the floor to having increased space and so it makes sense. The other thing that we have to deal with, and we have to be honest about is the perception of closing a facility. That is what many people have taken exception to is that we’re closing a perfectly good facility eventually is the plan. The other thing we have to be intentional about is really being honest. So, every time that we hear that a CDC is closed it is still up and fully operational. We’ve heard that for three years. It’s time for us to–in my opinion–to see how we can have a really honest conversation about what we can do and partner with the Fulton County Board of Commissioners to focus on–not just building a new facility, but what we need to do in the meantime and having a ACDC would certainly help us in that capacity.
I’m not sure if everyone had an opportunity to hear about what Chief Judge Portis has talked about where we’ve come from in the last 3 years. You can see right here that the stats bear out that our failure-to-appear rate to has gone up over 230 percent just in 2015 to 2019. But what does that mean? That means people aren’t coming back to court. There is a gap in the actual process of cash bail that has to be fixed in order for us to get meaningful data, but right now people are not coming back to court. It’s a fact it’s not fiction and I believe moving in the opposite direction of eliminating more city ordinance laws if you will be counterproductive to what we can and should be doing.
In 1995 you look at the 26 years that we’ve had the Detention Center and contrary to many people’s “propaganda” >> many people have said that ACDC was built in order to get people off the street for the Olympics. That is simply not true. We outgrew where we were at 236 Peachtree Street and in doing that, as many of you know, that was that day and became Gateway while I certainly appreciate the jobs they do Gateway and the services they provide, many of the services they provide are some of the same services we’re talking about with the current 254 Peachtree Street ACDC. So again, I’ve already mentioned what direct supervision was and how impactful it can be.
I will take an opportunity to tell you when as a young officer moving as a sergeant actually moving from indirect supervision at 2:36 Peachtree Street in to 250 for the newer building. I was absolutely against it. There was no way you could tell me that we could take the same thousand people at the time anywhere from 800 to a thousand people; treat them more humanely; get them off two floors; use less expensive construction material in building the facility; only to have my belief a couple years later change completely. Not only is it the most humane way to treat individuals, it is also the most efficient. It is absolutely an opportunity for us to redefine with law enforcement looks like as we get ready to hopefully partner to figure out how we can use some of that space and in building that facility. We were very thoughtful about not just how we treat people but how efficient it became. At the time and still now, it’s one of the best facilities in the country. We were able to maintain a perfect 100 on our American Correctional Association accreditation to include a perfect 100 on our Fulton 15 County Health school over a 10-year period so the proof is in the pudding. It is where we need to put people.
You’ve heard me talk about the additional bed space not just to alleviate overcrowding. You’ve heard me talk about the youthful offenders as well. We’re going to build an entrepreneurial center for our females at the South Annex that would be a wonderful place to move them closer to the city. And everyone over the years has heard me talk about the PAT3 program: the program for adult offenders to transition through training and therapy. It’s the number one program in the country: instead of leaving the facility inside DLC the State Department of Corrections with $25 and a bus ticket. We were able to put people to work. Our returning citizens with 15 months or less became city employees. In many instances we were able to partner with the Department of Public Works as well as Watershed to put these young men to work, so instead of leaving with $25 and bus ticket, many left with $10,000 – $15,000 – $20,000 in the bank. A real opportunity for a groundbreaking change and really re-engineering what re-entry looks like because first we have to understand when we have this conversation is that almost 90% of the individuals returning from the Department of Corrections into our communities come back to the Atlanta metro area. And so, what we what is the best outcome get them employed gainfully employed in many instances? We had private companies such as Home Depot come in and help train. We’ve had people that actually make the water meters…build the water meters–come in and teach this life skill if you will because for us it’s about changing lives at that point. Unfortunately, the program has dissipated over at the city. So as soon as we level set and we move a little past Covid-19, we will actually continue and move back into creating that environment at the county level as well.
We can really sit down and have a meaningful conversation whether it be leasing; whether it be purchasing; etc. We will certainly be able to continue to do the things that we should be doing whether it be the PAT3 Program, mental health programs, substance abuse programs, youthful offenders’ programs, we’ll be able to provide those wraparound services. And in many instances, we can do it based on several of the grants that we’ve already obtained at the county level. I get a lot of feedback regarding what’s next for the employees. Well again an opportunity for us to partner and I’ve said this both privately and publicly: all those individuals in good standing at the City of Atlanta Department of Corrections, we will hire at Fulton County. There is an opportunity for us to really do two things: And this is critical when you start talking about violent offenders, we need to have space for them. When you start talking about those misdemeanors — those individuals that violate our city ordinances, there have to be consequences for those particular behaviors. But look at what the court has done over the years in terms of great programmatic opportunities for people to get their charges expunged and being able to move in that area. We should be able to do this together in the holistic fashion.
One of the things that we really have to be honest about is where we are. For years, I’ve had an opportunity to watch our budget move in the City of Atlanta from $33 million down to $18 million. $15 million of the current ACDC budget went into another department which is constituent services, so the operational budget then appeared to be closer to $3 million. But if we were able to work this out accordingly that’s an $18 million liability we could take off of the City of Atlanta’s books. If we were able to sell it to–or if we were able to buy it from the County perspective, that’s another $20 or $30 million. Now you’re talking about nearly 40 or $50 million to put back into the General Fund, and we would still be able to provide both City services as well as Fulton County services. I had an opportunity to talk to some of the members over at the Tax Commissioner’s Office. When we built ACDC, both Fulton County residents and Atlanta residents paid the taxes to make this happen, so we certainly don’t want to have people double-taxed in any way shape form or fashion.
We talked about potential risk. There’s some risk on both sides of the conversation. So, the facts are: For every state charge, there is a municipal charge and vice versa. We have to understand when you come to Fulton County Jail, it’s not a place to teach people a lesson: I’ll give you a prime example and this is really goes out to people that continue to break the law. This Last time when we had activists jump onto the expressway, they were in for a shock, because instead of going to the city jail, they came to the county jail, and it was totally different. So again, to have this collaborative agreement that says the city is now the county and the county is now the city, we can certainly make sure that people understand that they’re going the Rice Street and ultimately may be housed at the city. I did find out there are at the county level much like the city level there is a signature bond in place. It’s a blanket signature bonds for nonviolent offenses. And this was put in place by one of the Chief Judges for Covid-19 relief factors.
But the Unique Piece here is: not only is it not only is it temporary, when we experience opportunities to strengthen the actual signature bond piece, unlike the cash bail bond piece that has not been revisited, we were able to do so in a short time and really strengthen it to the point that those that are out there meaning us no good and we’re watching them repeatedly get arrested at the city level and then the city judge turn around and finds the person incompetent after an evaluation–a property valuation mind you–the person found to be incompetent was then released back onto the street; charges dismissed; and then went right back to the Healey building downtown and committed the exact same crimes. If not worse. We were able to step in as a County and redirect that person; get them some additional help and now they are still in custody.
We started talking about overcrowding, you know, one of the things that goes along with this potential risk is how do we fight crime and how do we create this heavier presence. One of the things that we’ve announced most recently at Fulton County is that we are creating a crime suppression team which will be named “The Scorpion Team.” They will go out on a daily basis and search for those that mean us no good. If you continue to commit crimes in Fulton County >> holding people at gunpoint; pulling weapons on people; murder; aggravated assault…the best way for me to put it is: “We’re going to stop the stalkers.” We have, right now, since I took office, we had over 1,300 warrants. These are warrants that we know had been taken out because people need temporary protection orders (TPO’s) because people have been found to really be, not just in violation of the law, but enough of the preponderance of evidence to take a warrant out on these individuals and they haven’t been getting served until we took office again a little over 75 days ago. We have been very thoughtful about not just street presence, but thoughtful about making these warrants; making these arrests; and then moving into a space of how we create a safer environment for us all. The Scorpion team will be operating on a daily basis. It’s a crime suppression team that will be focusing on a daily basis of how we create a better environment for us all. The one thing we have been able to do is to partner with the Gang Task Force, with APD, the City of South Fulton. And we are partnering with the Governor and the State Patrol with respect to some of this street racing. We are leaning in more heavily in that environment. I ask people for their patience from The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office perspective because this is a real-life situation. Two weekends ago, we were asked to help in Sandy Springs with the street racing. We run the Sandy Springs to help. We were asked to help in Buckhead for another situation and then we were asked on the same night within the same hour to come out to Camp 20 Creek and help with over 200 or 300 teenagers. So, while we may appear to be spread thin we are moving in the right direction.
Again, one of the things that is has continued to plague us over. The last three to four years is a public perception. All right, it is it is not the perception that the state is opened. The state is open but is the perception that closing a jail–and I’m telling you I’m from here, so this is not just rhetoric, the fact is there are people in neighborhoods after neighborhoods that that perceive crime is simply out of control and it absolutely is. I say this often and I say it loud is I was elected by the people to do something about every aspect of law enforcement to include really crime suppression. And we’re going after this with a vigor that hadn’t been done before at the Sheriff’s Office level. In the past, the Sheriff’s office has been solely focused on the courts as well as the jails themselves, but holistically we’ve begun to create these partnerships and we have to work together to get it done. And perception is everyone’s reality. And so, we think it irresponsible that if we don’t really focus in and be very intentional about what we do in our partnerships, that we don’t serve our people, our community, in its best interest by not going after crime. So, we’re going to change that perception and it starts with the Sheriff’s Office; it starts with the leadership. And again, I say this, and I’ll continue to say it, if you commit a crime in Fulton County with intentional hurting or harming someone but whether it’s our community or whether it’s somebody visiting, we’re coming to see about you.
BCN Minutes continued
Mary Norwood: Sheriff Labat, I would like for you to very quickly tell people that if the ACDC were to be repurposed, what would have to be done at municipal court and what would have to be done at the new training center that hasn’t even been built yet because that was a really important part of what I heard the city council talk about was if it’s not that we can just not have a place where people are processed. We have to have a place they’re processed, and we have to have a place where those people that still must be detained can be detained. So, one of the things that rang very true to me was we would be talking about tens of millions of dollars to build out the first floor of the municipal court building and then with a APD Training Facility building that hasn’t even been planned or construction even thought about beginning. That’s where we would House people if the jail were to be closed down completely. Am I correct in that?
Pat Labat: You’re absolutely correct. And again as I mentioned during the presentation, the bottom line is the liability on all of this is: it’s an additional $5,000,000 to $10,000,000 to make that happen and that whatever space there would be out at the new training center to make that happen and then the other component: People often don’t understand that many judges then sentence somebody immediately from the bench, even though you were free prior and you walked into the courtroom, many judges sentence immediately from their bench. And so, where do you go from there?
And I failed to mention this and I’m glad you reminded me. It’s important to note. I was on the jail task force. I was appointed de facto by the fact that I was the chief and as such I attended every single meeting and what was left out – and what continues to be left out and as Sheriff I refuse to leave out – is our victims. There are so many victims across the city and across the county that we have to do a 22 better job of taking care of our victims. And so, if we can eliminate people from being victims, we want to make sure we do that but often we leave that conversation out. It’s really hurtful and I’ll give you a prime example and I will move to the next question as I mentioned. We have 1200 warrants, that’s 1,200 opportunities for people to be victims, alleged victims, etc. And we just have to do a better job. We cannot leave them out. That conversation and that was left out almost every task force meeting and it’s a shame that it was really one-sided.
Mary Norwood: In the end the last thing I’ll say Sheriff is what I understood was that with your PAT3 program and with what you did the 10 years that I knew you at the city’s Corrections Department, you were giving opportunities to the detainees. As you just said about PAT3 and so to separate out the physical facility versus what can happen with the use of those two facilities in tandem to make people’s lives better? I think has also been missed.
Pat Labat: I agree. I think the opportunities become tenfold. We can do much greater things. We can do youth programs. We can do the PAT3 programs. We can look at Women’s entrepreneurship. There are so many opportunities if we were to work in tandem; we can focus on Mental Health – get real help for individuals – and a lot of times people when you look at the comparative plans it is. Okay what’s best for our community? Not just from a perception standpoint. But what work product we’re putting out with respect to violent crimes and with respect to giving people a true second chance. It was one of the best and thank you for bringing up. It was one of the best in the country period bar none. We’ve had people from as far away as London; as far away as Texas; New Orleans – really across the country to say, “How are you doing this?” And here’s the best part about it. It made our city better because when you are able to send 20 people to work at DPW or work at Watershed and we’re in the midst of this pandemic right now and work forces are being limited right now. I can’t get some of my trash picked up because Covid-19 has really affected our Workforce … but to be able to have 15 or 20 more individuals who are ready and want to work. It’s a win-win for everybody and that’s really what I want to create is a win-win for everybody in a collaborative opportunity. Thank you.
Mary Norwood: Hi Jeff. If you want to feel some questions for the sheriff that would be great.
Jeff Clark: Okay, they’re a bunch in the chat list. So, I didn’t get any on the email questions thing. But Sandy Pierce appears to have several comments in here. Sandy, did you have anything you wanted to ask the Sheriff?
Sandy Pierce: Yeah, thank you so much. I think one of the themes that’s coming up for me and coming up for some of the questions in the chat is about restorative justice and kind of how you opened up your presentation. So, I would love to just hear more details about how this plan actually supports victims and offenders in that process. 23
Pat Labat: So great question and great call. So, one of the things that I firmly believe, and I ran on this and we have begun to change the conversation at the county level and that is: When we start talking about law enforcement, I firmly believe that it is our responsibility to extend an olive branch in every conversation and really be the ones that drive the force home about restorative justice. And so, when we’re able to do that, we build stronger communities from that perspective and for me it starts with customer service, both internal and external. The County, especially the County Sheriff’s office, has been notorious for not providing customer service. And so, the new mantra is quite simply in every conversation there has to be two or three elements to make a conversation both from our officers to those that we provide care and custody to and both to those that have individuals locked up, both to individuals that we stopped on the street for alleged crimes and provide law enforcement there. And those three things quite simply. Oh, “Please” “Thank you” and more importantly, “How may we help you?” And so that in and of itself really will redefine what law enforcement looks like. Now with the Criminal Justice Reform piece, it is incumbent upon us to make sure we partner with our Judges. We’ve already begun to do that. I’ll give you a prime example right now. We have as many as 803 individuals that have been incarcerated for over 365 days for charges that had a judge sentence them and not been able to see them kind of post or pre Covid-19, they wouldn’t have been in jail that long.
And foremost I believe people have to be held accountable. And if you continue to come to our neighborhoods to hurt harm and be you know provide this negative environment, we will certainly, as my grandma would say, “We’re going to come see about you.” And there is an opportunity for us to both learn and both do better at the same time.
Jeff Clark: There is a question from Owen Cantrell. He asked how incarcerated people and their families been included in the conversation about ACDC.
Pat Labat: Well, that’s a great conversation and a great opportunity. One of the things that I harken back to and that is what and this comes with experience and that is >> when we started talking a couple of years ago and the executive order was put in place to no longer house or no longer board ICE inmates. All right. I was really vocal about the effects on the families when you started moving individuals to Irwin; when you start moving them to Stuart; our families in and of themselves became disenfranchised because now they have to go three to four hours to see their loved ones. And we actually did a better job of how we treated those individuals that were going three and four hours away. I predicted that it would not (I hate to be right in some instances) predicted that it would not end well, and Owen, if you look in the news right now, you look that and see that in Irwin and Stewart the lack of medical treatment for females, they are currently being sued for, because young ladies are being forced to have a hysterectomy. And so, we have to really be thoughtful about that. But when it comes to families and Owen, it’s a great point. I remind everyone when you lock somebody up you just don’t like that individual up; you lock up a mama, a daddy a brother or sister, a son, a daughter. And so, it goes back to customer service, we have made it our point that if there is there are concerned loved ones, we have started our separate unit that provides better communication. I get tons of emails and tons of calls about people internally saying my son has Covid-19. All right, let us go see; let us have that conversation; and my son hadn’t been seen or hadn’t been tested. Well, it might be that the information shows your son refused the test. And we’re able to be more communicative in that space and really be thoughtful at the same time. And so, to your point on we are I was I tell everybody I was raised by a single mother right? I don’t have brothers and sisters, but I could imagine if my brother and sister were locked up but more importantly, I could imagine if I would locked up what my mom would be going through and so family is important. We’re very intentional, even with the PAT3 program, the synergy around its success was based on a family component. And so, if the family wanted to come back and help >> we get strange relationships we admit that, but the family was part of that success even so much so, we had people graduate from the program get out of the PAT3 program, remain city workers, but then bring their families back to be a part of our food and toy and coat drives adopting families from the military. I mean, it’s touching and so to your point, we cannot forget about those family members and we have to really figure out a way as one of my fellow newly-elected sheriffs would say, “So how can we do less pain? How can we create an environment where we cause less pain for your current situation and really own it. It starts with communication. And so, we’re doing a better job of communicating everybody on here knows that that you can reach out to me. If you don’t, I’ll before we leave, I’ll put my number in the chat. Please. Feel free to call me. My team hates that right. Let me be clear. But I believe you elected me you should be able to reach out. And be patient with me, because I get three or four hundred emails a day, but we want to be able to communicate especially with our family members in that space.
Mary Norwood: Thank you Sheriff. Thank you very much for your presentation. Thank you everyone for participating. We will answer the rest of the chat questions along with any other questions that we get. I do want to let we’ve got five elected officials who wanted to speak so I’m going to start in order.
Sonya Halpern: Hello, everybody. I am thrilled to have the invitation to be with you tonight. And this is my first time with you, but I will say it will not be my last. I am a newly elected State Senator for District 39. I won in a special election with a runoff. So, I won December 1st. And of course the session began in January, so I have been straight to work and right in The Hornet’s Nest with everything down at the Capitol but it’s been really great, and I will tell you that I come to this role now as a legislator having experience for a decade in media sales and marketing for many years for large corporations, and then moved into not-for-profit spaces always staying in development fundraising areas, but moved into the not-for-profit space and a lot of board leadership roles and really understand philanthropy. And so, I have those two that kind of for-profit and not-for-profit mind, having been in both of those worlds in a real understanding of what philanthropy can and cannot do and where good solid public policy is really necessary in order to create change and some of our 25 most entrenched systemic problems and issues. So, I am thrilled to be the new state senator. I myself do live here in Buckhead. I’ve been in Georgia for nearly 23 years and have lived in this District the entire time. So, while I’m in Buckhead now, I’ve also lived in other parts of the district. So, I have a very good perspective on different parts of the district. And that also means a good perspective on what the challenges and the differences are in the different parts of the district. But also, where there’s real synergy and similarity in some of the concerns.
Sonya Halpern: Just to kind of draw a map for those who may not know how far District 39 extends. It’s about 20 miles or so and cuts through many wonderful neighborhoods in Atlanta, including some of Buckhead, Midtown, west side of Atlanta, Southwest Atlanta, and then it goes on down to College Park, East Point, City of South Fulton and even a little bit of Union City. So, it’s a very diverse District.
Sonya Halpern: I’m really thrilled to be able to be the person who you all can reach out to talk to. I want to know where your concerns are so that I can make sure that your voices are heard in my policy positions and also in some of the policy work that I’m looking to do. Thank you. We’re gonna they’re gonna cut us off in a minute. So not everybody has a few minutes, but I thank you. Thank you, Senator, and we will get your information out to everybody when we distribute minutes next. We have Betsy Holland for a quick update Betsy.
Betsy Holland: Thank you everybody. I’m representative Betsy Holland. I represent almost all of the neighborhoods in Buckhead with just a few exceptions to the west and the south of me. As many of you know, our legislative session is just 40 days long. We’re a part-time State Legislature today was day 31. As Senator Halpern knows, we just passed through crossover day, which means any measure that was going to pass out of the state house to go to the senate had to pass and vice versa. So, you’re starting to see some news about what legislation is still alive and what is not. This group in particular I know is going to be interested in the fate of House Bill 534, the drag racing, street racing bill as illustrated in some of the comments when Sheriff Labatt was speaking. This is a complicated measure because our goal is never to lock up more people. Our goal is to try to prevent this crime from happening in the first place. And this is a bill that’s gone through a lot of compromise a lot of Concerns I’ll be interested to see what happens when it goes over to the Senate side, but it does live on to be heard in Senate committee and be voted in the Senate. One of the innovative things about the bill is that some of what it targets is the organizers of the street racing which was a component that the City of Atlanta didn’t have to be able to enforce before, so we’ll see how that goes moving forward. On the flip side of this, we really celebrated. We are the first state in the Union to repeal our citizens arrest law in the wake of the Ahmad Arbery killing a little over a year ago. We have that to celebrate.
Betsy Holland: There’s a state income tax cut so that we’re hoping will pass over on the Senate side as well. And the biggest news I think that came out of the Governor’s office that I just wanted to touch on is that the vaccine deployment guidelines are changing on Monday. They’ve expanded the groups of individuals in Georgia who will now have access to the Covid-19 vaccine. You can go to the Department of Health website to get more details, but this is pretty much going to open this up to about two-thirds of adults in Georgia anyone: over the age of 55 and people with certain health conditions. Vaccines are starting to become more available for people who need them. So that’s good.
Betsy Holland: I’m going to put my contact information in the chat. You can sign up for my Weekly Newsletter where we get updates about what’s happening in the legislature and almost every Sunday, I host a listening session to answer questions and give updates, so I would welcome all of you there where we have a little bit more time.
Michael Julian Bond: Just some quick updates. We have introduced legislation that would help to facilitate the conversation between the County and the City of Atlanta. Unfortunately, it was held in committee. I want to thank all the citizens who did call in to urge all the committee members to vote in support of it. What it would do is set up a task force of a portion of the Commissioners, a portion of the City Council, the Judiciary from the State and County level, the Sheriff, and the Mayor to sit down to see how we could best use the Atlanta Pretrial Detention Center in tandem with our partners over at Fulton County. I recently toured the Fulton County Jail. I hadn’t been there in years. I worked with, now Sheriff Labat, when we were both correction officers in college working at this at the city facility and I tell you that conditions there are not terrible, and I believe that we are morally obligated. Not only because the overcrowding at Fulton County Atlanta contributes to but as human beings, I think we need to do something to alleviate the suffering of others. If the City can take a stand against the condition of ICE inmates at the border some three to four thousand miles away, we should certainly be able to do something about the suffering and conditions of individuals who are housed only about a mile and a half away from downtown. So, we’re hoping to have some legislation to introduce on Monday, because Monday is our last meeting prior to the council recess. So, I’m going to look at some of the Parliamentary rules to see if the legislature can be pulled up for consideration. But another next Thursday the Post 1-at-large office. We had a successful first quarter town hall meeting had over 2,200 participants. We’re doing a special one on crime and domestic violence next week. Unfortunately, during the pandemic, domestic violence in the city, in all corners of the city is up 48%. So, for those who may be suffering underneath those conditions, we’re going to have resources from the county, the city, and our courts available to assist and inform those families plus we’ll have information from the Board of Health about where you can get vaccinated and continue to have tests.
You I thank God it put my information in the chat. Thank you. And next. We have a mere four okey and then if we’ve got another minute, I’d like for president more to have a moment to speak. Go ahead.
Amir Farokhi: Thank you, Mary and thank you to the Buckhead Council of neighborhoods for having all of us tonight. It’s been a joy to be part of the audience list of discussion. I represent Midtown downtown in a few neighborhoods to be so a bit south of the BC and footprint, but I did spend 13 of my formative school years in Chastain Park and had a lovely lunch at Anis today, so it’s good to be with you and I like to think of these conversations as being incredibly helpful for anyone who’s on Council because we all sit, except for our large colleagues, in a somewhat of a bubble and immediate neighborhoods and it makes us better at our jobs and how to best understand how other neighborhoods are grappling with challenges you face.
So, thank you for allowing us to be here. Two quick notes Public Safety is obviously top of mind not just in this meeting but at City Hall. We grapple with it every week. We had 12 to 14 shootings this past weekend, 8 of which were in my district. So, I grapple with it every week. I tend to however believe we should be in the process of closing down ACDC and it’s a bigger debate we can get into and I’m happy to have conversations one-on-one with folks who want to have that conversation. I also chair the zoning committee and as some of you may know we’re in the middle of a big zoning rewrite the first one in the number of decades. We are presented with a really good problem, which is more people want to live in the city. And so how do we manage that growth and find room for folks as we evolve and grow as a city is also top of mind and we’ll be working through that over the coming years of neighborhoods across the city. So, thank you for having me tonight.
Felicia Moore: I put my information twice in the chat. So please feel free to reach out to your Council President’s office. Please feel free to join and let your voice be heard at our Committee and Council meetings. We do take comment.
Mary Norwood: I want to thank everybody for being here. Thank you, Sheriff Labat, for your presentation, and I appreciate everybody’s time tonight. It’s 6:59, and we close down at 7 PM. Have a good rest of the week, and I hope to see you at our next meeting, in May.