John Legend took to Twitter to thank the mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, for her assistance in closing down a jail and seeking to re-purpose it.
Hours before he made his first-ever appearance on The Voice as one of the show’s judges, Legend reached out to the mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Bottoms, and thanked her for her work regarding the controversial Atlanta City Detention Center.
“Thank you, @KeishaBottoms, for your efforts in Atlanta to reduce incarceration, and for informing me about this community-drive process to #closethejailatl. We encourage you to include the formerly incarcerated in deciding what the space becomes next!”
He also included a link to an article by Broadly that talked about the effort to shut down the prison and see it re-purposed as something else.
The article discusses Mayor Bottoms’ executive order to prevent ICE from being able to use the facility to detain illegal immigrants. Since then, the detention center has seen declining use and some members of the local community want to see it used for something else.
The organization Women on the Rise led by executive director Marilynn Winn met with Mayor Bottoms to convince lawmakers to turn the prison into a wellness center designed to empower people to achieve more. Winn cites the Women’s Building, a former prison turned into a center for women in New York, as being inspiration for this effort.
Legend, as illustrated in his tweet, wants to see the building used to help “formerly incarcerated” individuals. This idea is no doubt inspired by his activism in giving former prisoners a second chance at life and is what motivated him to start the FREEAMERICA campaign.
According to the organization’s website, FREEAMERICA believes former prisoners struggle with re-introduction into society because of poor policies and other “systemic hurdles” they face. So they seek to overturn “misguided policies and practices” that they believe result in large numbers of people going to prison and also find ways to help those struggling to reintegrate after serving their sentences.
Legend at the head of the FREEAMERICA nonprofit has been actively engaged in assisting former inmates get a new start in life. In a report by Black Enterprise, Legend worked to help former inmates in their entrepreneurial efforts once out of prison. One example was the invention and release of Flikshop, an app that enables families to communicate with inmates by sending postcards from their smartphone.
At this time, Mayor Bottoms and the other political leaders of Atlanta are still deliberating what to do with the prison. The suggestion by the new host of The Voice isn’t a bad idea and would likely help a lot of people.