Atlanta City Council Member Keisha Sean Waites Introduces Legislation to Establish the John Robert Lewis Center for Health and Wellness

Atlanta City Council Member Keisha Sean Waites Introduces Legislation to Establish the John Robert Lewis Center for Health and Wellness

Post 3 At-Large Council member Keisha Sean Waites has introduced legislation to establish the John Lewis Center for Health and Wellness as part of an effort to re-purpose the Atlanta City Detention Center and redirect related funds into community resources.


Repurposing the detention center can be an effective and strategic response to overcrowded jails. Reducing crime can be done by addressing the root causes of crime – access to career training, better jobs, affordable housing, healthcare access, and creating a center for community services to prevent and deter crime. 


“By naming this facility after the late Congressman John Lewis, we continue his legacy by showing a commitment to the values he believed in, especially how making a commitment to people can make a difference in our society. Through exploring alternative responses to these issues and putting the focus on diversion services and rehabilitation, the City of Atlanta can serve as a model and pilot for the nation in tackling these issues. For years, service providers, community leaders, public and mental health experts, doctors, and faith leaders have been advocating and pleading with the city about the need to repurpose the detention center into a national model for alternative diversion services, transitional housing, career training, mental health services, and drug and alcohol treatment as a beacon of hope,” said citywide Council member Keisha Waites. “These conversations, along with so many impactful remarks during public comment from the people of this city, motivated me to introduce this resolution. Having the support of John Lewis’ family to name the repurposed space after the late congressman and civil rights icon was just more confirmation that the time is right to move in this direction.”


“Housing, health, and wellness embodies what Congressman Lewis would want in a repurposed detention center,” said Rachelle O’Neil, a spokesperson for the Lewis family. “Congressman Lewis was incarcerated 40 times over his life for standing up for human rights, but each time he was released from incarceration, our country progressed further toward a vision of justice for all. This project is another opportunity to further the legacy of the late congressman and bring pride to all those who will be positively impacted by this re-imagined space.”


The legislation notes that investing in community resources can enhance the quality of life for all residents, the business community, and make Atlanta a stronger city. In November 2021, the Council approved legislation to execute an intergovernmental agreement on behalf of the City of Atlanta with Fulton County to create a pre-arrest diversion center staffed by the Policing Alternatives and Diversion Program (PAD) and Grady Memorial Hospital (Legislative Reference No. 21-R-4118). In February 2022, the Council approved legislation allocating $2.95 million in funds to cover the capital costs necessary to complete the construction of the center (Legislative Reference No. 22-O-1102).


About Atlanta City Council

The Atlanta City Council is the chief policy-making body for the City of Atlanta. It acts by considering and enacting all laws that govern the City. The Council also approves the operating and capital budgets for the City as recommended by the mayor, and it continually monitors revenues and expenditures for local government operations. The Atlanta City Council reviews and has final say on many land-use and zoning matters. Major economic development projects for the City also fall under the council’s consideration.

The Council is comprised of 12 districts and three at-large posts. Council representatives include: Council President: Doug Shipman; District 1: Jason Winston; District 2: Amir Farokhi; District 3: Byron Amos; District 4: Jason S. Dozier; District 5: Liliana Bakhtiari; District 6: Alex Wan; District 7: Howard Shook; District 8: Mary Norwood; District 9: Dustin Hillis; District 10: Andrea L. Boone; District 11: Marci Collier Overstreet; District 12: Antonio Lewis; Post 1 At-Large: Michael Julian Bond; Post 2 At-Large: Matt Westmoreland; and Post 3 At-Large: Keisha Sean Waites.

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