Photo credit: Reginald Duncan / The Atlanta Voice)
How powerful is this?!
The City of South Fulton, Georgia is only one year old and it’s already making history as the nation’s first city to have its entire criminal justice system led by Black women.
Recognized as the fifth largest city in Georgia, Chief Judge Tiffany Carter Sellers, Court Administrator Lakesiya Cofield, Chief Court Clerk Ramona Howard, City Solicitor LaDawn “LBJ” Jones, City Public Defender Viveca Famber Powell, and Chief of Police Sheila Rogers hold the top positions in City of South Fulton’s justice system. As reported by The Atlanta Voice, most of the women are the city’s first to fulfill their respective roles.
“Our goal is to ensure justice for everyone,” Sellers said. “However, as African American women we are sensitive to the history of criminal justice in our country. We want to be an example of how to do things right.”
In doing so, the city has introduced a pre-trial diversion program called “Second Chance South Fulton,” which allows eligible offenders to maintain a clean record in exchange for education, counseling, and community service. The program costs are included in the city’s budget and led by City Solicitor Jones, who explained:
“One of the primary purposes of laws is to protect citizens and the city. You can do that without sending everyone to jail or enforce high fees. Most people do better when they know better.”
The progressive city also provides a public defender in the beginning as “in most jurisdictions, a public defender is only assigned after someone proves they cannot afford a private attorney, ” according to the Atlanta Voice. However, in South Fulton, appointed counsel is provided to all those who appear before the court.
“Although we handle misdemeanors, the cases can have serious long-term effects on the person accused,” Powell said. “Having an opportunity to advise clients ensures justice is received by all.”
Here’s to building a better criminal justice system.