On February 29th, 2016, Georgia Justice Project clients, supporters, and staff gathered at the State Capitol to participate in GJP’s fourth annual Lobby Day to “Enhance the Chance.” About 90 people attended from Metro Atlanta and across Georgia. After a morning kick-off at Central Presbyterian Church featuring speakers Dr. George Lee, a pastor and community leader from Savannah, April Laland-Sentmanat, a former GJP client who went on to found the nonprofit Woman-2-Woman and Associates, and Marissa McCall Dodson of the American Civil Liberties Union, the group walked across the street to speak with legislators and lobby for criminal justice reform.
This year, we focused our energy on asking the General Assembly to pass SB 367 and HB 828, two bills that would reduce barriers and increase employment opportunities for people with criminal records. Attendees met with their home district Senators and Representatives in addition to strategically targeted bill sponsors and key committee members. This was many of our attendees’ first experience lobbying, or even first time at the Capitol. Participants provided glowing reviews throughout the day about the empowerment they felt while sharing their story with legislators and by having a voice the democratic process. In an exciting twist, HB 828, which would create a tax credit for employers who hire people on parole, passed the House while we were there!
We concluded our day back at the Church with closing remarks from Commissioner Michael Nail of the Georgia Department of Community Supervision and Fulton County Chairman John Eaves. We were also pleased to have the National Incarceration Association, a new partner organization in criminal justice reform advocacy headed by Kate Boccia, join us for this year’s event. It was truly inspiring to see all our attendees join together in the Capitol wearing orange ribbons, the color used nationally to symbolize the need to end mass incarceration. Thank you to everyone who participated in Lobby Day 2016 – we look forward to seeing you again next year!