An attorney, writer and activist from Atlanta has accused the city of being willing to trade prisoners for profit.
Josie Duffy Rice – whose website bio says her work is primarily focused on prosecutors, prisons, and other criminal justice issues – called out Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens in a lengthy Twitter thread. She said Dickens did “a TOTAL 180” concerning his stance on the fate of the city’s jail.
“I have a super important story to tell y’all. My city, Atlanta (@CityofAtlanta), is trying hard to make money off locking up its own residents—$50 per day for each new person locked up. Here’s what’s happening:” Duffy tweeted on Wednesday, Aug. 10.
She explained that when Dickens was a councilman, he sponsored legislation to close the Atlanta city jail after years of demands from local activists.
According to Rice, a group called Women on the Rise and other activists wanted the jail replaced with a community resource center that would offer services instead of sentences to residents who need support.
Rice also said the community center proposal is supported by the family of late civil rights legend John Lewis. However, Rice alleges Dickens reversed course.
“But let me tell yall what Mayor @andreforatlanta did. Because it’s so incredibly shameful and disappointing,” Rice continued. “Last week, @andreforatlanta did a TOTAL 180, and directed a council member to introduce new legislation that would instead lease the mostly-empty city jail (only holds 30-50 people per night) to Fulton County—allowing the county to fill the jail with 700-1300 people.”
She then accused Dickens of switching out because leasing the jail is a money-grab for the city.
“Now, why would he do this? Like, WHY would the man who supported this legislation go after it like this? Well, for each person from Fulton County that goes into the city jail… Atlanta makes $50 per day,” Rice wrote.
She elaborated on her position and encouraged Atlanta residents to reach out to their council members to oppose the legislation.
“Want to know if your councilmember supports increasing mass incarceration in atlanta? Well, i suggest you ask them. Now’s your chance,”’ Rice concluded her thread and added all of the city councilmembers’ Twitter handles.
Dickens told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the homicide rate in his city is “too high for me. Too high for our citizens.”
“It’s tearing at me at the core,” Dickens said. “To see people, you know, take a bowling ball dispute and it ends in murder … these things concern me.”
He hasn’t responded to Rice’s thread, but another resident did, asking Rice if she’d reached out to the mayor.
“Question. Have you reached out to @CityofAtlanta or @andreforatlanta as to why they would do this and what does it do for the city of Atlanta? This thread stuck out to me because I know the mayor, his passion for reform and how Fulton county major restrictions with the city,” @tptwyman asked.
Rice said, “well funny you would ask.. he has refused to even meet with advocates! lots of people are trying to work with him on this. i have always liked andre. i voted for him! but this is unacceptable.”
PHOTO: Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens unveils a new police precinct in the Atlanta’s Buckhead district Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, as he tries to head off an effort to turn the wealthy, white enclave into its own city over concerns about a spike in crime. (AP Photo/Sudhin S. Thanawala)