Georgia Governor Makes Emotional Case for Justice Reform at RNC Winter Meeting

Criminal justice reform was on the menu at a luncheon Thursday during the Republican National Committee winter meeting in Charleston, South Carolina. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal served up an emotional talk about his efforts to reform the Peach State’s approach to corrections.

In January 2011, Deal delivered his first State of the State address to the Georgia General Assembly. The new governor surprised Republican lawmakers when he asked for the creation of a commission to review Georgia’s criminal justice system and offer recommendations for reform.

At the time, Georgia’s prison system was experiencing a crisis. The prison population had doubled over the course of two decades, budget allocations for corrections eclipsed $1 billion, and three in ten offenders were rearrested after their release from prison. The Georgia General Assembly created the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform at Deal’s request during the 2011 session.

The council’s first report, released in November 2011, was an eye-opener for state lawmakers. “If current policies remain in place,” the council explained, “analysis indicates that Georgia’s prison population will rise by another 8 percent to reach nearly 60,000 inmates by 2016, presenting the state with the need to spend an additional $264 million to expand capacity.”