The Atlanta City Council has approved $2.9 million to convert a segment of the city jail into a diversion center.
The funding was approved at the council’s Sept. 19 meeting and includes demolition and construction of a portion of the second floor of the Atlanta City Detention Center to be transformed into a 12,000 square-foot “Center for Diversion Services” space. Construction is expected to start early next year and be completed by early 2024.
The funding for the diversion center comes after the council’s controversial vote to approve leasing up to 700 beds of the Atlanta City Detention Center to Fulton County to alleviate overcrowding at its jails.
The Center for Diversion Services is a “pre-arrest” drop-off facility where people without homes and those experiencing mental health and substance abuse issues can receive recovery resources rather than being locked up for nonviolent, minor offenses, according to the city.
“In line with our whole-of-government approach to public safety, the Center for Diversion Services is a proactive approach to addressing some of the root causes of crime,” said Mayor Andre Dickens in a news release.
“This is a people-first holistic approach to public safety to end the cycle of needless incarceration for non-violent offenders and strengthen community wellness by directly addressing the underlying issues related to behavioral health and poverty,” he said.
The council on Sept. 19 also approved legislation by Councilmember Keisha Sean Waites to request the city pay for an appraisal of the Atlanta City Detention Center to determine “the true market value of the building and property in order to make informed decisions regarding the highest and best use of the asset and funds allocated to operations at the site.”