Former inmates now a protected class in city of Atlanta

Atlanta City Council makes former inmates a protected class
Published: Oct. 17, 2022 at 6:25 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - In a one-of-a-kind city council debate, the Atlanta City Council voted to establish formerly incarcerated people as a protected class.

Bridgette Simpson is co-founder of a nonprofit called Barred Business. Her organization helps convicted felons get back on their feet, particularly those who she said are disproportionately impacted by the legal system.

“There aren’t any opportunities, there aren’t any places who are willing to accept people who have served the sentences that they were handed out,” Simpson said. “I served a 10-year sentence and upon my release, there was nothing for me. I literally had to live underneath a bridge, live in my car, and all of those things but thankfully I was able to pull on my community and they were able to help me get some upward mobility. However, there are a lot of people who can’t.”

Simpson said by establishing a protected class, former inmates who served time would be given the same opportunities as any other citizen, making it easier for them to get a job, find housing and better provide for themselves.

“I think that when people wrote laws many, many years ago they never thought about the fact that after the fact, after we’ve done the time, after that, that individuals want to get on with their lives,” Atlanta City Council Member Keisha Waites said.

Regardless of where city leaders stand on the issue, this proposed ordinance will no doubt impact recidivism rates.

“One in eight people in Georgia are justice impacted, that’s a pretty big number and that’s a pretty big number of people to be discriminated against,” Simpson said.