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Coalition Letter to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform

07/11/2019

FreedomWorks sent a coalition letter to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp urging him to support the reauthorization of the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform. The text of the letter and signers are below and a PDF of the letter can be found here.

Dear Governor Kemp,

We, the undersigned, urge you to support the reauthorization of the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform. Georgia has become a leader on criminal justice reforms, paving the way for federal reforms through the First Step Act, which was signed into law in December 2018 by President Donald Trump.

As President Trump said at the signing ceremony for the First Step Act, the states have led the way on criminal justice reform, specifically citing Georgia as one of the examples. “[T]hey’ve had tremendous — tremendous results,” he said, “results that are incredible.” One of the reasons for the “tremendous results” is because of the critical work done by the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform.

Created by the Georgia General Assembly in 2011 as the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians and reauthorized through July 2012 as the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform through June 2018, the Council consists of experts who made recommendations for criminal justice reform policies for the Georgia General Assembly to consider. At the time, Georgia faced a projected 8 percent increase in the state’s prison population by 2016 and related costs of $264 million.

The Council made its initial recommendations in November 2011. Although not every recommendation was adopted, the General Assembly passed many of the initial recommendations in 2012, including accountability courts and front-end risk assessments. Another recommendation from the Council’s first report, a safety valve exception to mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, was enacted in 2013.

The Council’s work was considered in virtually every legislative session since the initial recommendations. Since then, the General Assembly has passed reentry reform, juvenile justice reform, and parole reforms. The benefit to public safety speaks for itself. Although overall commitments to Georgia’s prison system have declined, violent offenders now represent 67 percent of the state’s prison population, up from 58 percent in 2008. This means that Georgia is focusing its resources on incarcerating dangerous criminals, as it should. Georgia’s violent crime and property crime rates are at their lowest levels since 1971 and 1972, respectively. Georgia has also averted the $264 million in prison costs.

Governor Kemp, we urge you to keep Georgia at the forefront of criminal justice reform by urging the General Assembly to reauthorize the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform during the 2020 legislative session.

The work of the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice is not complete. Much more is left to be accomplished, particularly as it relates to second chance initiatives like record-sealing and expungement and mental health. This panel of experts will be essential to providing the General Assembly with specific recommendations on the best paths forward to continue the momentum for criminal justice reform in Georgia.

Sincerely,

Adam Brandon, President, FreedomWorks

David Safavian, General Counsel, American Conservative Union

Holly Harris, President and Executive Director, Justice Action Network

Grover Norquist, President, Americans for Tax Reform

Mark Holden, Senior Vice President, Koch Industries

Marc Hyden, Director of State Government Affairs, R Street Institute

Marc Levin, Vice President of Criminal Justice Policy, Texas Public Policy Foundation

Kyle Wingfield, President, Georgia Public Policy Foundation

Timothy R. Head, Executive Director, Faith & Freedom Coalition

Stephen Allison, State Director, Americans for Prosperity-Georgia