The service, in turn, offers inmates the chance to focus on something else other than the daily anxieties of jail, giving them a sense of purpose during an otherwise dark time in life. The program, dubbed Canine Cellmates, pairs dogs with inmates over an eight-week period, after which the dogs are put up for adoption.
"I heard one of the guys from the jail say, 'as soon as they took those dogs, they stopped being inmates,'" said Angela Diffly, Canine CellMates' spokeswoman. "It humanized them. They walked differently, they looked differently, and they were all so excited to get their dogs. It was heartwarming to see it."
Each day, the 10 inmates in the program assemble in a room with their companions for a 90-minute training session lead by a certified trainer. After they're done learning in the classroom for the day, the inmates spend more time during the day with their dog, bonding and reinforcing the skills learned in class. At the end of the day, the dogs sleep in plastic kennels at the end of their partners' beds.
Similar programs, such as Gwinnett County Jail's Operation Second Chance, have been implemented across the country, but Canine CellMates is the first of its kind in Fulton County. The entire operation is privately funded with both corporate and private sponsorships.
Canine CellMates even offers the prospects of reducing crime. The companionship that the dogs offer seems to be so effective that it reduces the rates of inmates reoffending.
"Similar programs have shown a dramatic decrease in violent outbursts in prison and jail facilities, sometimes by as much as 50 percent," said Susan Jacobs-Meadows, the founding director of Canine CellMates, in a press release.
The Prison Pet Partnership Program of Washington State claims that no one in their program has reoffended in the past three years, while Puppies Behind Bars of Kanas reports similarly low rates of recidivism. Researchers at Kansas State University find a plausible link between such programs and a reduction in the rate of reoffending but that there isn't enough data to say for certain.
"Such programs appear to have the potential to break down barriers of fear and mistrust between staff and inmates and there is also some evidence, again anecdotal, that they reduce recidivism and behavioral infractions among inmates," the authors write. "Literally no systematic studies exist, however."
Despite some uncertainty about the program's effectiveness, Fulton County authorities don't have any reservations about the program.
"We are always looking for positive programs that benefit the inmates and best serve the overall community," said Fulton County Sheriff Ted Jackson. "This program will motivate the inmates to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and it will teach them responsibility and accountability for the dogs. We are optimistic about the affects this program will have as a whole."
And Canine CellMate's directors say that the animals are always completely safe.
"It's a wide-open room and the inmates are constantly supervised," Diffly told CL. "In the other programs, any times there's ever been an issue with the inmates showing any kind of cruelty to the dogs, the other inmates will correct that real quick, or else they'll make sure he's kicked out of the program. Only the best of the best inmates get even an opportunity to be in the program."
During the dogs' eight-week stay at the jail, Fulton County Animal Services officials work to find each dog a home once the program ends. When the program finishes its first cycle, the inmates will have to say goodbye to their canine companions.
Crime Stoppers has started an online fundraiser aimed at raising an additional $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and indictment of the culprit. The latest effort follows a $25,000 cash reward from the Atlanta Police and a $500 donation from the Grant Park Neighborhood Association.
In addition, APD has released a second sketch by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation of the likely suspect. As previously reported, witnesses described the Kirkwood robber as an African-American male between the ages of 16 and 18, 5'8" to 5'10" in height, with a thin build, and little to no facial hair. As the new sketch shows, he was also wearing a "dark-colored" hat with a red Polo logo, a blue and red checkered shirt, khaki shorts, and white high-top shoes.
APD Sgt. Greg Lyon says investigators have linked the suspect to the robberies and the murder of East Atlanta resident Patrick Cotrona.
Anyone with information pertaining to the recent string of crimes can anonymously contact Crime Stoppers' tip line by calling 404-577-TIPS (8477), sending a message online, or by texting CSA and the tip to CRIMES (274637).
The mayor is ratcheting up his recent criticism of the Fulton courts, which he says are responsible for freeing repeat felons, some of whom were already on probation at the time they were arrested. He says the court has contributed to what he calls a "turnstile" situation that allows those offenders back on Atlanta's streets rather than locking 'em up in the county jail.
"What you're going to see is that every time that a violent crime occurs in the city and it's someone that Fulton County released, we're going to start publicizing it," Reed told CL yesterday. "We're going to show that we arrested this person before, and that they went to Fulton County, and Fulton County released them back into your neighborhood so there's shared accountability."
Reed raised eyebrows in a May 7 interview with WABE's Denis O'Hayer when he said the county "doesn't do anything," including making sure that repeat offenders go to jail. Several brazen crimes in southeast Atlanta have spurred community pleas for additional policing and improving public safety. Reed is now emphasizing the role the courts and county jail play in keeping the city safe and he's pointing to Atlanta Police Department data to back up his claims.
Family members, friends, civic and business leaders, and elected officials placed votive candles in paper bags decorated with messages to the 33-year-old video game programmer and the community. Some attendees donned yellow, a nod to the color of the game piece that Cotrona often picked when he played board games.
According to an APD spokeswoman, witnesses and victims described the suspect as a young African-American male between the age of 16 and 18, 5'8 to 5'10 in height, with a thin build, medium-brown complexion and little to no facial hair.
"The suspect was wearing a dark-colored hat with a red POLO emblem on it, a red-and-blue vertical stripped/checkered short sleeve button up shirt with a collar, khaki shorts and white high top shoes," an APD spokeswoman says.
Police also released video of a possible robbery suspect fleeing the scene and jumping into a four-door dark charcoal Grey Dodge Stratus or Intrepid with a sun roof.
Got any tips? Call Crime Stoppers at 404-577-TIPS (8477).
Southeast Atlanta residents were rattled by the recent shootings, including the Saturday killing of Patrick Cotrona, a video game engineer and East Atlanta resident who was shot by an armed robber while walking to a nearby pub. The crime followed another nearby shooting just one week before.
"My administration's top priority is public safety," said Mayor Kasim Reed, who also expressed his condolences to Cotrona's friends and families. "It troubles me deeply to hear of violent crime against people in our city's neighborhoods."
In response, the mayor says, Atlanta Police will increase their presence throughout East Atlanta by increasing foot patrols, mounted patrols, and conduct safety checkpoints with DeKalb County and Fulton County Police. Atlanta Police Chief George Turner added that his officers will continue to "work aggressively" in their ongoing investigations.
"The additional resources we are deploying are part of our efforts to reduce violent crime in East Atlanta and throughout the city," said Turner. "We stand with the families of those whose lives have been needlessly cut short, and will work with the community to solve these crimes."
A vigil has been planned this Friday night to rally against crime and remember Patrick Cotrona, the East Atlanta Village resident who was shot and killed late Saturday night during an armed robbery just blocks away from the bustling nightlife strip.
Cotrona, who suffered a gunshot wound to his abdomen and later died at the hospital, was one of two men shot that night. The suspect reportedly hopped into a waiting car and sped away. From the event's Facebook page:
As many of you already know, East Atlanta Village suffered the loss of a resident due to a violent armed robbery. We have also seen a recent uptick in crime. We plan to meet and have a vigil in memory of the lives lost due to violent crime in our neighborhood but also to rally against crime.
We ask that you all make an effort to come out and support the family and friends of Patrick Cotrona in a showing of solidarity from East Atlanta Village. More information will be provided as it is available.
The vigil, which will take place at 567 Flat Shoals Avenue, starts at 5:30 p.m. Be sure to check the Facebook page for updates.
The killing has rattled southeast Atlanta neighborhoods, especially East Atlanta, which was already concerned about public safety following the fatal shooting of a 27-year-old man on Metropolitan Avenue the previous weekend. Neighbors in nearby Grant Park have also expressed concern over the May 17 shooting of a man walking to his car after an Atlanta Braves game. More on that crime later.
In a statement, East Atlanta Community Association officials have called on Mayor Kasim Reed and the Atlanta City Council to provide funding to increase the number of police officers. They also said APD has agreed to step up police presence in East Atlanta. The East Atlanta Security Patrol, the neighborhood's privately funded force, will permanently add a Friday and Saturday night shift and seek additional donations from residents and businesses.
Inside his Marietta law office, Barnes spoke on Brooks' behalf and said the state lawmaker, who was indicted by a federal grand jury last week on 30 counts of committing mail, wire, and tax fraud and filing false tax returns, "did not break any laws." He also questioned U.S. Attorney Sally Yates' "discretion" to make this a criminal case instead of a civil tax matter.
"It's simply not a crime," said Barnes, who's representing Brooks pro bono. "You have to have a specific intent to defraud. There's just no specific intent [here]. If he wanted to defraud somebody, he would've created a $200,000 to $300,000 salary and paid expenses on top of that. This is just crazy."
Brooks, who pleaded not guilty on Wednesday and was released on a $25,000 unsecured bond, declined to comment at the press conference. He was flanked by supporters and held his four-year-old grandson, Mateo Mitchell, in his arms as Barnes addressed the media.
Last week, a federal grand jury charged Brooks with misappropriating more than $1 million from two charitable organizations, Universal Humanities Inc. and the Georgia Association of Black Elected Officials. The longtime state lawmaker allegedly solicited donations from companies and individuals and later used those funds to pay for personal expenses such as home repairs, health insurance, and electronic equipment.
When the charges were first announced, he hinted that the government was pressuring him because of his tireless efforts to raise awareness the 1946 Moore's Ford Bridge killings. Brooks said that he and others were "getting close to proving federal involvement in the lynching massacre."
Barnes said Brooks never took a salary from either group and claimed he only used the money to pay for related expenses. He also noted that the money Brooks allegedly stole amounted to somewhere between $40,000 and $50,000 per year. If the lawmaker had simply set up a salary from the beginning, Barnes said, there would be no issue.
"There is a difference between bad bookkeeping and trying to lock someone up for 10 to 20 years," Barnes said.
Gov. Nathan Deal is expected to create a three-person panel in the next few weeks to review the case. Brooks could be suspended from the Georgia General Assembly pending the group's findings.
Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell thinks that the perception of crime is "worse than ever," in part thanks to recent iPhone thefts and other petty crimes. He plans to explore that discussion with Atlantans during a "Twitter Chat," which will take place tonight at 5 p.m.
"Monday's Twitter Chat is an invitation from me for anyone on Twitter to participate in an open exchange about how we can all work together to reduce crimes that rob us of our basic quality of life," Mitchell said in a Facebook post.
Atlantic Cities writes about the Pew study - which addresses the national decline in gun homicides and violent crime over the last 20 years - in a piece titled, "Why Do So Many People Think Gun Violence is Getting Worse?"
Based on Pew's research, national firearm homicides declined by 49 percent between 1993 and 2000. Non-fatal gun crimes also dropped dramatically during the same time. Yet, only 12 percent of the national population surveyed by Pew believes crime involving guns decreased over the last two decades. Fifty-six percent of those questioned think it's increased.
So why the huge discrepancy between the real crime numbers and the perception of crime cited in the report? It has to be the uptick in high-profile mass-shootings, Atlantic Cities writer Emily Badger surmises. But before she gets to that point, she makes an interesting assumption in posing the question, which may not ring true locally:
Also Burroughston Broch can't tell when when people are being sarcastic
Hahaha look at me I'm white and I'm being flippant about racism
@ Mark Millen
"Find out how much of that figure will go towards this project…
@ Mark from Atlanta
"In all honestly my friend, you cannot not really know who…
Actually, Broch, no I don't want to reconsider. You are talking about an arts center…
"OK, then you identify The Man. Please be specific."
In all honestly my…