Editor's note: This is part of a series of stories dealing with topics addressed during the City of Atlanta inauguration ceremonies on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014.
During Monday's almost preacher-like proclamation that his administration will "double-down" the city's effort to remove repeat criminal offenders from Atlanta's streets, Mayor Kasim Reed asked city residents to check back with him after 100 days for an update on how to best “execute a plan around this pressing issue.”
But not before whipping up supporter’s praise and enthusiasm exclaiming how humanity and education must win out over stupidity and violence.
“We must say to them, 'If you put the gun down, we’ll put a book in your hands, we’ll put some work in your hand, we’ll put a job in your hands, we’ll put a paycheck in your hands. We’ll work with you to put your future back in your hands. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re not just going to be tough. That gets old.”'
The applause grew at the Atlanta Civic Center where the mayor and some supporters exchanged shoutouts of encouragement. And then Reed continued.
"To show that it’s not about politics, I’ve got my second term, but about problem solving, I am prepared to begin a meaningful, respectful conversation about the use of the Atlanta City Jail, if it means that we can remove people who do violence from our midst who have refused to accept the norms of our community.
“I am not talking about a young man or woman who has made a mistake. … I’m talking about someone who has been arrested and convicted for serious crimes 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 times. For that, there is no excuse.”
And during a speech that covered a wide variety of mostly city but some state related topics, the mayor wasn’t finished on public safety, emphasizing that tackling the issue of incarceration and recidivism is a must.
“Prisoner reentry is not simply a criminal justice issue nor is it simply a racial or poverty issue it’s a human rights issue, one that affects millions of individuals, families and communities from across Atlanta and America. It is a cycle that contributes to the increasing unemployment in our city, family destabilization in our city, and it is a disruption of the economic and social fabric of our city robbing us of ‘human capital.’
“It’s time for us to do something about this and we are. Over the next 100 days, we are going to take best practices from other cities and execute a plan around this pressing issue and I’m asking the Atlanta city council for their help and their hand.”
Reed wasn’t the only one calling for cooperation as City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, who like the mayor was sworn into office for a second term Monday, stressed “structurally improving public safety” in the city’s neighborhoods.
"Imagine how much we could bolster the cause of public safety if we achieve functional partnerships with Fulton County and DeKalb County with respect to our judicial systems," Mitchell said. "The opportunity is there, the opportunity is now."
In a news release, Fulton County Commissioner John Eaves said his county was on board, too. “We also reaffirm our commitment to a series of criminal justice reforms aimed at a goal we both share, making the streets of Atlanta safer,” he said.
“Mayor Reed suggested job training as another way of giving the incarcerated a second chance and an opportunity at a productive life. We agree that such endeavors combined with what the county is already working on would only help us shut that revolving door.”
Added Eaves: “Such efforts include working with the National Association of Counties on the National Standards for the Care of Youth Charged with Status Offenses, a program aimed specifically at unlocking the potential of our young people.”