Rethinking Justice Community Symposium

Rethinking Justice Community Symposium

For Immediate Release

Media Contact: Xochitl Bervera 404-861-0756

June 17, 2016

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

 New initiative offers solutions instead of punishment for residents struggling with mental illness, drug addiction, and 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.

What: Re-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, 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 program below 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.

Register today!

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Program of Events

1:00 – 1:15       Welcome & Introduction

Welcome from the Initiative’s staff, elected leaders, and those whose lives will be impacted by the program and a brief film starring Atlanta City Council Member Kwanza Hall, Fulton County District Attorney, Paul Howard, Kim Anderson, Director of Forever Families, and more…

Andre Dickens, At-Large City Council Member (invited)

LeRoy Evans & Che Johnson-Long, Co-Coordinators of the Atlanta/Fulton County Pre-Arrest Diversion Program

Xochitl Bervera, Director, Racial Justice Action Center

Marilynn Winn, Co-founder/Lead Organizer, Women on the Rise

Film by Voiceraiser.com

1:15 – 2:15       National Perspectives on Pre-Arrest Diversion & its Role in Criminal Justice Reform

The Atlanta/Fulton County initiative is modeled after the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion Program (LEAD) first implemented in Seattle in 2011. Since then it has been implemented in Santa Fe, NM, and Albany, NY and garnered national attention and support for its success in reducing recidivism and increasing safety. This panel will explore the national perspective on the importance of these initiatives as well as have law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and case managers from LEAD jurisdictions to share concrete lessons learned.

Moderator:

Kris Nyrop, LEAD National Support Director, Seattle Public Defender Association

Panelists:

Ronald Simpson-Bey, Just Leadership USA

Jamie Wood, Open Society Foundation, NY

Captain Jerome Sanchez, Santa Fe Police Department

Captain Lars Paul, Fayetteville, NC Police Department

Natalie Walton-Anderson, Prosecuting Attorney, King County, WA

Cathy Speelmon, LEAD Project Manager, Evergreen Treatment Center, Seattle, WA

Najja Morris, Case Manager Supervisor, Evergreen Treatment Center, Seattle, WA

2:15 – 3:15       State of the City & County: Why Pre-Arrest Diversion for Atlanta & Fulton County?

In this panel, local prosecutors and judges, faith based leaders, service providers, and elected officials discuss what makes Pre-Arrest Diversion so important for Atlanta in this moment.

Moderator:

Che Johnson-Long, Co-Coordinator of the Atlanta/Fulton County Pre-Arrest Diversion Program

Panelists:

Sarah Flack, Director of the Community Prosecution Unit, Fulton County DA’s Office

Kim Anderson, Director, Forever Families

Hon. Lillian Caudle, Presiding Judge of Fulton County Treatment Court

Kwanza Hall, District 2 Council Member, City of Atlanta

Dee Dee Chamblee, Executive Director of LaGender, Inc.

Joshua Lesser, Rabbi, Congregation Bet Haverim

3:15 – 3:45      Brief Presentation on the Atlanta/Fulton County Pre-Arrest Diversion Initiative’s Design Team and Planning Process for 2016

3:45 – 4:00      Break

4:00 – 5:00      Reaching Our Potential: Why Atlanta Will Do It Right           

In this panel, local business leaders, HIV/AIDS care providers, local prosecutors, judges, and elected officials why Atlanta is the right place for this innovative initiative.

Moderator:

Xochitl Bervera, Director, Racial Justice Action Center

Panelists:

Hon. Constance Russell, Judge, Superior Court

Dr. Liz Frye, Director of Psychiatry and Street Medicine, Mercy Care

George Chidi, Social Impact Director, Atlanta Downtown Improvement District/Central Atlanta Progress

Ronda Graham, Deputy City Solicitor

Marvin Arrington, Fulton County Board of Commissioner (invited)

5:00 – 7:00       Closing, Reception, Announcement of Design Team Appointees

Please join us for a wine and cheese reception, a showing of the brief film starring Atlanta City Council Member Kwanza Hall, Fulton County District Attorney, Paul Howard, Kim Anderson, Director of Forever Families, and more, and the announcement of the newly appointed members of the Atlanta/Fulton County Pre-Arrest Diversion Initiative Design Team!