Advocacy

Georgia Justice Project’s mission is to reduce the number of Georgians under correctional control and to reduce barriers to reentry.  GJP has helped make 23 changes in the law, and led the charge on  two significant policy wins in the 2020 and 2021 legislative sessions: Senate Bill 288 (expanding expungement of convictions) and Senate Bill 105 (increasing access to early termination of felony probation).

GJP’s policy priorities for 2022 were aimed at #GettingGeorgiansBacktoWork and enjoyed the support of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Metro Atlanta Chamber. In the 2022 Legislative Session, we succeeded in passing one bill, and built momentum and support for policy changes we will pursue again next year: expanding access to expungement and reducing barriers to occupational licenses.

We invite you to sign up for action alerts to stay informed about reentry reform bills, and make your voice heard by contacting your elected officials.

2022 Legislative Session Update:

Passed a Bill that will Reduce Driver’s License Suspensions

Driver’s License Suspension Reform (passed in a substitute version of SB 10) will take effect July 1, 2022.  105,000 driver’s licenses are suspended every year in Georgia—not because of dangerous driving—but because someone missed a traffic court date.  Failing to Appear (FTA) for ANY traffic violation automatically results in a suspended driver’s license, but there are many reasons why someone might miss their court date.  If signed, this law will allow a judge to stop a suspension before it starts and provide an easier path to reinstatement for people whose license was suspended for an FTA. Current law requires full adjudication and payment of all fines, fees, assessments, and a Department of Driver’s Services (DDS) fee before a person can get their license back.  The new law will allow a judge to reinstate a license without full payment and adjudication and to waive the reinstatement fee. 

Why does this matter?  79% of Georgians drive to work. Almost half of people who lose their driver’s license lose their job, and 50,000 arrests are made annually for driving on a suspended license.  FTA suspensions do not improve public safety.  Instead, suspensions start a cycle of deeper poverty through job loss, arrests, more fines, and less ability to pay court debt, and more barriers to reclaiming the license.  This bill will help Georgians keep and regain their driver’s licenses so they can drive to work and support their families.  It will also save 450,000 law enforcement hours that are spent annually on these non-safety related arrests. 

Built Momentum and Support for Expanding Access to Expungement

The belief that a person’s criminal record should not haunt them for the rest of their life has always been at the heart of GJP’s policy work.  SB 257 would have improved upon SB 288 (passed 2020), but despite passing the Senate and the House committee, it didn’t get a final vote before the session ended.  GJP will be back at it next year working with our business and community partners to improve record clearing so more Georgians can get a job, support their families, and contribute to the economy.  We will advocate in 2023 and beyond to expand eligibility for record clearing for rehabilitated individuals by providing a direct path for felony expungement outside the pardon process; streamlining and simplifying the process – ultimately moving Georgia towards automating the process with “clean slate” practices to create equitable access to record clearing. 

Built Momentum and Support for Reducing Barriers to Occupational Licensing

GJP continues our work to reduce barriers to meaningful work in licensed professions. SR 376 would have created a Senate study committee on occupational licensing.  While it didn’t pass, GJP will convene interested organizations to jointly advocate for reforms that will reduce barriers to quality jobs and economic mobility.  1 in 7 jobs in Georgia require an occupational license. More than 4.5 million people have a Georgia criminal record, and even when records are old, pardoned or expunged, licensing applicants face barriers. Lack of clarity over how records will be considered discourages well-qualified would-be applicants, and people who are denied licenses lack avenues for appeal and future applications. We hope Georgia will follow the lead of Mississippi, North Carolina, Kentucky, Florida, Missouri, and other states that have recently enacted reforms to reduce barriers to the licensed fields, especially in high-demand industries.