Atlanta, Fulton County looks to eliminate cash-bonds for non-vio - CBS46 News

Atlanta, Fulton County looks to eliminate cash-bonds for non-violent, minor crimes

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(Source: WGCL) (Source: WGCL)
ATLANTA (CBS46) -

Criminal justice reform was a big part of Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottom's campaign. Now, a measure to eliminate cash bonds for non-violent minor crimes in Atlanta is moving through the city council.

But the idea also has support on the county level. The new commission chairman, Rob Pitts, will be introducing legislation of his own in February.

Both Bottoms and Pitts got to this point independent of each other, but this is a big issue in Atlanta. Critics call it a two-tiered system of justice where some people have to stay behind bars because they're too poor to bail themselves out.

Now, there's real momentum to end it.

With the Atlanta City Council now considering a measure to eliminate cash bonds for non-violent misdemeanors, the city appears to be on course with the mayor's ambitious agenda for criminal justice reform.

"When we look at our cash bond system here in Atlanta, and you hear stories of people languishing in jail simply because they can't afford to pay, then it's something we take seriously as a city, and also as a compassionate city, that you should not be in prison because you are poor," said Mayor Bottoms. "This is a first step toward addressing that and there will likely be many more reforms coming as it relates to criminal justice."

The move is expected to bring relief to the hundreds of homeless people who spent an average of 10 days in jail for minor crimes like trespassing and sleeping in the park.

"It seems to be that the judges are on the same page in terms of intent to make sure we are moving away from this system, and I'm trusting and believing that we will be able to work together to achieve what we know to be the right thing to do," added Mayor Bottoms. 

But the crisis doesn't just affect the city. The county also has a stake in it, and a very expensive one.

"At the same time, that's costing the county $77 a day to house an inmate, so it really makes no sense," said Pitts. "The good news to that problem is that not only are we looking at ways to resolve and solve that problem, but the City of Atlanta is as well."

Pitts calls that a waste of tax-payer money and has met with court officials to hammer out a proposal to end the practice in Fulton County.

'We're all in sync, we're all on board as this is the right thing to do," said Pitts. "Just trying to put the finishing touches on it now, and we should have legislation drafted for me to introduce before the Board of Commissioners at our first meeting in February."

Pitts said he met with the ACLU, the county solicitor and the chief magistrate to come up with ways to implement the plan. He makes it clear that it does not apply to violent or serious crimes.

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