The City That Made Former Prisoners A Protected Class

Two former cellmates persuaded Atlanta’s leaders to legally protect formerly incarcerated residents from discrimination.

Bridgette Simpson, lead organizer of Women on The Rise’s campaign to close Atlanta’s city jail, spoke outside the Fulton County Government Center in 2019. (Photo by Maggie Lee / Saporta Report)

In a groundbreaking move last year, Atlanta City Council designated formerly incarcerated people as a protected class, offering legal protection against discrimination. The change was spearheaded by two former cellmates who faced multiple barriers in their attempts to restart their lives after serving their sentences.

In this episode of the podcast, Next City Executive Director Lucas Grindley talks with journalist Emily Nonko about her reporting on the campaign to amend the ordinance. We also meet Bridgette Simpson, co-founder of Barred Business, which wants to see this change in other cities, states and, ultimately, the federal government.

“Normal people make mistakes, but they do have the opportunity to move past their lowest point in their lives,” says Simpson. “And I think we all should have that right.”

Listen to this episode below or subscribe to Next City’s podcast on Apple, Spotify or Goodpods.

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