On Thursday, Denis O’Hayer of WABE (90.1FM) was the only journalist who made it to Gov. Nathan Deal’s speech to a gathering of the United Negro College Fund.
And so he was the only one to hear the governor announce that he would ask state lawmakers next year to approve a major expansion of education programs in the state’s prisons.
Listen here. Said Deal:
”One out of every 13, I’m told now, of our citizens in the state of Georgia are either in jail, in prison, on probation, or on parole. One out of every 13. That is a statistic we need to change.”
Afterwards, O’Hayer asked the governor for details that clearly haven’t been developed yet. But Deal said he had reconvened the criminal justice commission that produced legislation this spring to divert non-violent drug and property offenders to treatment rather than hard time.
”We’re going to continue to explore what we can do within the prison population to better equip them to be productive citizens once they are released from the system. It will be an issue that I bring before the criminal justice commission, that we have reinstituted via an executive order. They are the ones that did the work that led up to the criminal justice reform last year.
“It’s [something] that we’re already doing work on with our heads of the Department of Corrections and our vocational college system to do what we can to infuse some abilities and skills into that population group before they are released from prison so that they can get a good job.”
The governor hasn’t put a price tag on the effort yet. “We’re going to see what we can do with the money we have,” he said. “I believe in the motto that your conduct earns you into our prison system. If your conduct is good, it ought to earn your way out.”
Check out O’Hayer’s post. Includes a photograph of a familiar figure – former Fulton County commission chairman Michael Lomax, now president and CEO of the UNCF.
Back in May, my AJC colleagues Aaron Gould Sheinin and Bill Rankin talked to the governor about where criminal justice reform might be headed next. Here’s some of what they reported:
The special council is also expected to be called on to address two initiatives the Legislature did not take up this year — decriminalizing many of the state’s traffic offenses and allowing “safety valves” for some mandatory minimum sentences.
Georgia criminalizes minor traffic offenses — more than 2 million a year — while most other states treat them as violations with a fine as the penalty, the council said in a November report.
These cases do not contribute to the prison population but they clog court systems, the council found. This can occur when someone demands a jury trial, for example, for being ticketed for running a red light and for hearings for offenders who fail to pay their fines or run into other trouble.
The council suggested changing minor traffic offenses from misdemeanors to non-criminal violations, tying enforcement of fine collections to driver’s license renewals and vehicle registrations. The council said it would not decriminalize driving under the influence, driving with a suspended license and other, unspecified “serious traffic offenses.”
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider