Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill Wednesday to amend criminal justice procedures in Georgia.
The Governor has spearheaded the initiative to overhaul criminal justice reform in the state since he took office in 2011. Deal said at the bill signing that the entire process has cut down on up to 5,000 potential prisoners and has saved nearly $264 million.
“The reforms have, in my opinion, changed the lives of many people and the projectory [sic] of many families in this state," Deal said. "And that is indeed a good thing.”
Wednesday’s bill is the fifth installment of his effort, one that takes small but important steps. The legislation primarily focuses on ways to make it easier for low-level offenders to re-enter society after release.
One goal of the bill is to close cases for first offenders after they are completed. This aims to keep individuals from being barred from a job because of a criminal record.
The bill would also ban licensers from revoking or denying licenses based on an applicant’s criminal record. This is an extension of an executive order Governor Deal issued last year to ban state employers from asking applicants whether they had a criminal record.
Another important step of the bill is reformation of the juvenile system. New charter schools within juvenile prisons will be implemented to provide inmates a full high school diploma. The bill will also keep juvenile cases contained within the schools’ judicial process. This eases the courts from becoming packed with low-level cases, and also keeps students from entering the criminal system.