News & Blog

Research|Action Contributes to Campaign to Close the Atlanta Jail

A new website Out on Bond was launched by the Georgia Working Families Party with information about Atlanta City Council member Michael Julian Bond. This was based partly on research done by Research|Action in cooperation with community groups in Atlanta. They are concerned that Bond has been an obstacle to criminal justice reform and that he opposes closing and repurposing the Atlanta City Detention Center. Also check out the video.

News & Blog

Atlanta Moves Forward with Jail Closure

In a major victory for criminal justice reform, the city of Atlanta has taken the next step toward closing the Atlanta City Detention Center (ACDC) and repurposing the facility for other uses that would benefit the community.  The city will set up a community task force to study alternative uses for the jail, which will present its findings within a year.

The campaign to close the jail has been ongoing for many years, led by Women on the Rise and the Racial Justice Action Center (RJAC), as part of their efforts to reduce mass incarceration in Atlanta. Research|Action has long supported RJAC’s work through the analysis of arrest and jail data and conducting research into the ACDC’s history and finances. Our report on the jail, The History of the Atlanta City Detention Center, can be found here.

News & Blog


Report released by Research|Action details history of city’s extra jail

The Communities Over Cages: Close the Jail ATL Campaign met with consultants from Bloomberg and Associates, and representatives from the Mayor’s Office last week to discuss the closing of the Atlanta City Detention Center and repurposing into a Center for Wellness & Freedom.
Read the article.
News & Blog

Research|Action Releases Report on Atlanta Jail

Research|Action has been researching the Atlanta City Detention Center to provide historical information in support of the “Close the Jail ATL: Communities Over Cages” campaign, led by Women on the Rise and the Racial Justice Action Center.

The report features information on the construction, finances and history of the jail as well as past debates about selling the jail to Fulton County.  The campaign to close the jail seeks progressive alternatives to mass incarceration and alternative uses for the facility.

A previous post about this campaign is here and the report can be found here.

News & Blog

The Campaign to Close the Atlanta Jail

There is a community campaign fighting to close the Atlanta City Detention Center and use the facility for alternative purposes.  The jail costs $33 million/year to operate but because of recent progressive changes in sentencing policy and policing strategy, it is largely empty on most days.  It can house over 1,300 incarcerated people.

Working with the Racial Justice Action Center (RJAC) and Women on the Rise, Research|Action provided background and budget data on the jail to better understand its history and the economics of the facility.  This included researching news articles and city budget documents going back to when it was built in the 1990s.

We found that the city largely paid for the construction of the $55 million facility during fiscal years 1994-1996. It had also raised nearly $68 million for this project from a 1992 bond fund which was used to pay for the initial construction as well as ongoing capital improvements over time.  The city then paid back the bond in subsequent years until 2017 when it was fully paid off.

In 2011 there were discussions about selling the facility to Fulton County, but a deal never materialized.

Research|Action also spoke at a recent Atlanta City Council hearing to provide this background data to inform the discussion.

A recent article about the campaign is here.

News & Blog

Cruel & Usual Report added to Prison Policy Initiative Research Library

We’re proud that our new prison report, Cruel & Usual, has been added to the Prison Policy Initiative research library. It can be found here.

News & Blog

Rotten and Rat-Infested: The Appalling Food and Healthcare Conditions Facing Inmates in U.S. Prisons

Article about our report Cruel and Usual.

We rarely see what goes on inside of U.S. prisons, besides the occasional reports of riots, suicides or corruption scandals that trickle out of an otherwise opaque institution. But a new study looking into prison conditions nationwide shines light on the bleak reality of everyday life behind bars.

The study, conducted by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC)—an affiliate of the Industrial Workers of the World and Research Action Cooperative—surveyed 123 incarcerated individuals across 21 states. The majority of the participants were from state facilities, but also included prisoners from federal institutions and immigrant detention centers, mostly from Missouri, Texas and California.

Read the article.

News & Blog

New Report Documents Poor Quality of Food and Health Care for Prisoners

Results of a survey of over 100 prisoners nationwide

Widespread problems with food and health care quality are standard in U.S. prisons, according to a new report by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) and Research Action Cooperative. 65% of prisoners reported that food made them sick in the last year and 63% reported being denied needed health care.

Based on a survey of 123 prisoners in 83 facilities in 21 states, the report, Cruel and Usual: A National Prisoner Survey of Prison Food and Health Care Quality, concludes:

Overall, the prisoners describe a prison system that routinely provides inadequate food and health care that endangers their health.  Unsanitary conditions, small servings of poor quality food, and lack of attention to special diets are common.  Disrespect by health care staff, delayed care, and denial of treatment and medications are also common.

Read the report.

Among the report’s findings about food:

  • 65% reported that the food made them sick during the last year and 66% reported that they were served food not intended for humans, food with bugs, or moldy/spoiled food during the last year.
  • 80% stated that they have been denied meals or given too little food in the last year. About half reported having special dietary needs, and 70% of them did not have their needs met.  69% of respondents rated the food quality as poor.
  • Nearly 40% indicated that they were only served fresh fruit or vegetables “once in a while” or “never.”

In detailed comments, prisoners described food that was served in unsanitary conditions and was expired, spoiled or moldy, or contained bugs or rocks. Some containers were labeled not fit for human consumption. Several described getting food poisoning or diarrhea. Many prisoners commented that their food servings were too small or that they were not given enough time to get food.  Written comments from prisoners include:

  • Prisoner in Kansas: “The portions on the trays are very small and I’m always hungry even after I eat.”
  • Prisoner in Missouri: “Our containers we have our juice made and served in are often moldy. We do not have the proper chemicals, like bleach, to clean them out. Our trays and cups are often dirty also. There are rats and roaches in the kitchen too. We also have rats, in the warehouse, where our canteen is stored.”

Among the report’s findings about health care:

  • 69% of respondents rated their health care quality as poor.
  • 63% reported being denied needed health care during the last year and 54% reported that the health care staff treated them badly in the last year.
  • Nearly 40% reported having to wait weeks or months to get care they asked for.
  • 60% or more reported not having a physical exam, teeth cleaning, or vision exam in the past year.
  • 82% reported needing medications, and about 40% of them reported that they either didn’t get them or sometimes got them.

In detailed comments, many prisoners described rude and disrespectful behavior, routine neglect, denial of care, and poorly trained health care staff. Several prisoners reported being charged excessive fees for care and several described getting inadequate treatment remotely via video conference.  Written comments from prisoners include:

  • Prisoner in Texas: “I, nor anyone I know on this unit has ever seen a doctor face to face. We are usually seen by a “provider” which is usually an RN through a TV interview and they assess our medical needs by looking at us through a webcam and asking questions.”
  • Prisoner in California: “Doctors are argumentative and very dismissive and controlled by custodial officers who dictate which inmate gets what level of care. Custodial staff intentionally lie on prisoners which causes inmates to receive poor care.”

IWOC member Brianna Peril states, “As a labor union with prisoners and free people, IWOC fights for better prison conditions and this report gives prisoners an opportunity to make their voices heard on the crucial issues of food and health care. It’s clear that the U.S. prison system is failing them through this routinely poor treatment that endangers their lives.”

The report concludes that people who are being punished through imprisonment should not also be punished again with inadequate food and health care, and that this callous treatment is often the result of cost-cutting, racism, and an inhumane, punitive approach to imprisonment.  IWOC believes that a true investment in positive rehabilitation would provide quality food and health care that values prisoners’ lives.

Read the report.