Reimagining Atlanta City Detention Center

A community-led initiative to convert the current city jail facility into a Center for Equity, realized through Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ transformational vision. It holds the potential to be a national model in the United States, providing increased resources, wellness, and healing for the community.

Initiative Overview

The Issue

The ACDC, located in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia at Peachtree Street NW and Memorial Drive SW, is an 11- story, 471,000 square foot active detention and arrest-processing center. Construction of the current ACDC facility occurred in 1995 and the building has the capacity to detain approximately 1,300 individuals. As of May 2020, the average daily population of detainees was less than 50 because of Mayor Bottoms’ and community-led successful efforts to decriminalize several low-level offenses; launch and build out the pre-arrest diversion initiative; reform municipal cash bail; and end a long-term contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Solution

In May 2019, Mayor Bottoms signed legislation authorizing the closure of the Atlanta City Detention Center and standing up a Task Force to provide preliminary recommendations for the initiative. It is a top priority of Mayor Bottoms to put this underutilized facility to more productive use as a multifaceted center for wellness and healing, skills-building, economic mobility, and crime prevention for people, families and communities impacted by the history of over-incarceration. By converting this space, the City of Atlanta seeks to invest in people to break the cycle of poverty while at the same time improving public safety practices and opportunities that reduce recidivism and re-build lives.

Task Force Overview

In May 2019, the Mayor signed legislation to create a Task Force of 52 members including government officials, business leaders, service providers, and community members to work to provide comprehensive recommendations for the future of the space. A major component of the Reimagining ACDC initiative was the creation of three workgroups:

Workgroups met regularly in between Task Force meetings to conduct research, brainstorm ideas, and produce preliminary recommendations to inform the work of the larger Task Force. They were led by City of Atlanta staff who organized and supported the work.

Policy Workgroup


The Policy Workgroup reviewed city ordinances and state statutes carrying criminal penalties leading to detention at the ACDC to identify policy changes required to depopulate and divert individuals from ACDC with the objective of making recommendations to enhance public safety and reduce the need for a municipal detention facility.


To position the City of Atlanta to effectively close the ACDC while also addressing the needs of public safety and wellbeing, the Policy Workgroup submitted recommendations in three areas:

  • City Code
  • State Legislature
  • Municipal Agency Responsibilities

If adopted, the recommendations would provide the opportunity to reduce the number of people arrested under the affected laws and would diminish bookings and detentions to a fraction of the number seen today. Please see the full Policy Workgroup recommendations for additional context.

Program Workgroup


The Program Workgroup explored services and activities that could be housed in the future building that would best advance well-being consistent with the vision for the Center for Equity.


As experts in their respective fields, Workgroup members assessed both the depth and breadth of service offerings throughout the Atlanta area and identified highest-priority programmatic focus areas for the reimagined ACDC:

  • Housing and homelessness
  • Justice reform
  • Employment and financial empowerment
  • Health, mental health, and behavioral health

Please see the full Program Workgroup recommendations for more information.

Building Workgroup


The Building Workgroup analyzed the building capacity for adaptive reuse as a Center for Equity and envisioned design scenarios that could achieve that vision.


In collaboration with the Building Workgroup, Designing Justice + Designing Spaces, an architecture and real-estate non-profit that served as a consultant for this work, formulated two repurposing strategies and two new build strategies, complete with initial cost estimates:

Equity Podium

Minimum Repurposing

Downtown Anchor

Full Repurposing

Center for Equity Campus

Demolition and Rebuild

Distributed Equity

* Renderings by Designing Justice + Designing Spaces