Homeless Fill Atlanta’s Jails due to “Quality of Life” Policies; Over 100,000 QOL Arrests in Three Years

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atlanta jail(APN) ATLANTA — There is a tremendous shortage of affordable housing units and shelter beds in the City of Atlanta – but, this shortage would be so much worse if the City of Atlanta weren’t locking so many homeless people up in cages.

 

The City of Atlanta’s criminalization homeless people and other marginalized communities continues through the enforcement of so-called “Quality of Life” (QOL) ordinances.

 

The total number Quality of Life arrests from 2012 to 2015 in Atlanta was 104,069 people, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.

 

Out of that total, 90,316 were arrests of Black people.

 

This information comes from Atlanta police records provided to APN by Marshall Rancifer, a long-time homeless advocate who has done contract work with APN.

 

QOL crimes can be anything from loitering, trespassing, panhandling, drinking in public, public intoxication, disorderly conduct, urinating in public, dumping trash, and occupying placarded properties or unlawful occupancy.

 

As previously reported by APN, in 2012, the City of Atlanta adopted a new, deplorable anti-panhandling law, placing “time, place, and manner” restrictions on “commercial solicitation,” which includes panhandling.

 

http://atlantaprogressivenews.com/2012/09/28/mayors-panhandling-proposal-allows-180-days-in-jail-even-on-first-offense-update-1/

 

The numbers show the disparities in arrest between the Black community in Atlanta, and all other racial groups, including Whites, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanics in Atlanta for QOL violations during that time period.

 

“Quality of Life arrests target homeless and marginalized people,” Rancifer told APN.

 

“Whose life are they improving?” Rancifer asks.

 

“It certainly isn’t improving the quality of life of poor folks because they are the ones being arrested for QOL violations, which mostly applies to the mentally ill and homeless populations,” Rancifer said.

 

“It’s so people don’t have to look at homeless folks or deal with them – that’s whose lives it’s improving,” Rancifer said.

 

Many areas of the QOL laws are vague.  They appear to allow police officers unlimited discretion to determine who is loitering and what is disorderly conduct.

 

These policies discriminate against certain communities and against people who, due to poverty, homelessness, or mental illness, have no choice but to engage in QOL activities in public.

 

How can one use a bathroom when one does not have a home and cannot find a public facility to use.

 

This is not just an Atlanta problem, but a national problem.

 

“We are solving social problems with incarceration and that is the least inexpensive way to solve social issues.  We can’t arrest our way out of homelessness, substance use and abuse, or mental illness,” Mona Bennett, Associate Director, Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition, told APN.

 

Rancifer has noticed an increase in QOL arrests in Atlanta’s English Avenue neighborhood, a/k/a “the Bluff,” and part of the Vine City neighborhood.  This is where the new stadium is being built to house the Atlanta Falcons.

 

“They are targeting people on English Avenue now for stuff as simple as walking in the road when there are no sidewalks,” Rancifer said.

 

“The stadium is coming and the area is being gentrified  and real estate speculators are buying up land and houses.  Renters are being turned out of their houses and people in the English Avenue area are being arrested on QOL violations,” Bennett said.

 

Those arrested usually lose whatever small possession they have.  If they had a minimum wage job or a room to live in, that is gone; and now they have a police record.

 

Lawmakers living in a privileged bubble pass QOL laws that negatively impact society’s most vulnerable members, and make their lives harder.

 

Without a support system, many of these arrestees go back to the same area and become part of a revolving door of arrests, jail, release, and back to jail again.

 

“This doesn’t have to happen… We need more homeless services, more alcohol and drug treatment services, and more community resources for everyone in the community,” Bennett said.

 

Other U.S. cities have shown that connecting people with social services; and treatment, when necessary, is cheaper than jailing people.

 

http://atlantaprogressivenews.com/2015/07/26/atlantans-had-productive-white-house-visit-for-lead-symposium/

 

“It is cheaper to house and help people than to keep  putting them in jail.  But with all the privatization of correctional services, now jails and prisons need product; and the product generally are the homeless people; and the taxpayers pay for a system that does not work but hurts,” Bennett explained.

 

What Atlanta is doing is unconscionable.

 

(END/2016)

9 comments

  • My personal experience is, of course, limited, but it seems every city that uses a Quality of Life patrol does so because:
    1. Were that city to introduce the combined policies of the Quality of Life patrol as individual laws, there would be public outcry; and
    2. The inability to effectively supervise a Quality of Life patrol allows its officers to act arbitrarily and, thus, unconstitutionally with little recourse.

    Here, the APN has assembled incredibly valuable evidence of how Atlanta’s patrol is misused. Thank you.

  • Having been incarcerated for 8 months with many women from the “bluffs,” most of those are on drugs, many were arrested for being “white” in the bluffs – as this is Atlanta’s place to go for high quality heroine and crack. Many of these women were prostitutes selling their bodies for a $2 crack rock. The jail offered many of these women drug court, which places them in a drug rehab type half way house. Unfortunately, many returned to their crack cocaine & were subsequently kicked out of the program. So, the help is there, most snubbed their noses at it, didn’t take it seriously, and returned to jail in mere months. I was there because police shot me after breaking into my home because someone called in a wellbeing check. 18 months after shooting me, they indicted me to avoid a civil suit I filed. My judge SC judge Alford Demosey Jr., an African American referred to me as “the crazy white lady” before any of the facts were even heard. I was forced under duress to plead guilty to charges I did not commit to get out of jail. Judge Alford Dempsey Jr., also sealed an amicus that exhonerated me, because police and the prosecution would face both state and federal charges. Fulton county is very corrupt. The truth means nothing to the DA’s office, and FCJ receives money for each inmate…so these QOL charges are most likely so the jail makes more money. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=kXn-iCytgL8

    • Amy,

      I am so sorry to read what you’ve faced! I don’t have any $ to send as I’m recently epileptic & not even allowed to work now! i HAVE TIME though to help, let your lawyers know, you have a researcher available anytime needed!!

      My Best Wishes,
      Kat Black

  • Thank you for this excellent article! Where else can we find this quality of information about our city!

  • Glad to see someone is writing about this. I have worked in homeless advocacy. Homelessness is a very important topic which impacts the entire community and makes a powerful statement pertaining to the society we live in. Thank you Gloria!

  • Drug and alcohol recovery are hard to promote bute their is a master list of residential low cost-no cost places available from the United way 211. This 24 hour hotlone has also listed mental health places, domestic violence help and services for families which are often overwhelmed or partially funded. 211 is not perfect it has flaws….but it is a ste[p in helping those who qualify.

  • Same ole Atlanta….stepping on whoever, wherever to climb nowhere…..close homeless shelters and move those to facilities that will line the pockets of privatised prisons with ill gotten gains…. lawlessness practiced by lawmakers.is the fox watching the chicken coop…

  • So the QOL issue is why KING & SPALDING PARTNER RAYMOND E. BALTZ JR. & HIS ALL WHITE HOMOPHOBIC RACIST TAX EXEMPT NON PROFIT “CHARITY” BUCKHEAD BASEBALL VIOLATES THE CIVIL RIGHTS OF MINORITES, JUST FOR BEING IN A ATLANTA PUBLIC PARK???!! The parents of BUCKHEAD BASEBALL (a so called “charity) HAVE TO PAY AT LEAST 5 THOUSAND JUST FOR THEIR KID TO PLAY ON A BUCKHEAD BASEBALL TEAM; SO APPARENTLY, IT’S ‘PAY TO PLAY’ UNLESS YOU’RE A GUARDIAN WATCHING YOUR KID, OR YOU’RE KICKED OUT of THE ‘ ATLANTA PUBLIC PARK’ (Frankie Allen PUBLIC Park)! P.S. google ‘RAYMOND E. BALTZ JR.’ to read more ‘disturbing po$ts about him.

  • The quote from the lady above(AB) should prove that the judge should be brought up on charges to the ethics board – how can a man(and I use the term loosely) refer to a woman as he did. If anyone is crazy it is the judge.
    **********************************************************************************
    ” I was there because police shot me after breaking into my home because someone called in a wellbeing check. 18 months after shooting me, they indicted me to avoid a civil suit I filed. My judge SC judge Alford Demosey Jr., an African American referred to me as “the crazy white lady” “

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