Greetings GJP Friends,
First, everyone at GJP hopes that you are warm and safe during this round of inclement weather. It has necessitated the Assembly’s adjournment until Monday, February 17.
Enhance the Chance Lobby Day on March 6th 8:30 – 12:00pm
If you haven’t already done so, please register for Enhance the Chance: Georgia Justice Project Lobby Day at the Capitol. GJP will be working with partners in Albany, Macon and Savannah to provide free transportation from these areas. To do this we will need 20 people signed up from each area by next Friday, February 21st. You can sign-up for transportation when you register.
Good news at the Capitol: a bill has been introduced that will improve reentry for people with criminal records and includes several of the recommendations from the Criminal Justice Reform Council. Senate Bill 365 sponsored by Senator Jesse Stone (District 23) from Waynesboro and 17 other legislators was introduced late last Friday afternoon. The bill eliminates the automatic suspension of drivers’ licenses for some drug offenses, requires monthly updates of information by private background companies with removal of restricted (expunged) records, and creates a Certificate of Program Completion issued by the Department of Corrections that will protect employers who hire people with this certificate from liability.
GJP’s Recommendations to Improve the New Bill
Overall, we are pleased with the bill, but will advocate for additional provisions. For example, along with restricted records, we would like to see private companies also be prohibited from reporting successful first offender records. The First Offender Act, often referred to as “Georgia’s second chance law,” allows certain first-time offenders to avoid both a conviction and a public record of the case if they successfully complete their sentence. However, even after the official record is sealed, private companies continue to report the information to employers and other decision-makers which leads to denied opportunities. So that successful first offenders can have the second chance Georgia promises, these records cannot be reported by private companies.
We will also advocate that employers that hire people with pardons also be protected from hiring liability. A pardon is issued by the Board of Pardons and Paroles and is an order of official forgiveness for convictions. Pardons are granted to individuals who have maintained a good reputation in their community for at least five years after the completion of their last sentence. Those pardoned have demonstrated rehabilitation and do not pose a recidivism risk. Thus, employers that hire people with pardons should not be subject to liability because they knew or should have known of the potential risk of the conviction because the offense was officially forgiven by the state.
Status of the Bill and How You Can Help
The bill has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee and was originally scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday, February 11th. Due to the weather, however, the hearing was canceled. We will let you know when it is rescheduled so that those who are interested can attend.
Please take a minute to review SB365 and GJP’s proposed amendments to see how we hope to improve access to opportunity for people with criminal records in our state with SB365. Your ongoing participation is central to our success and we appreciate it.
Thanks for your support,
Marissa McCall Dodson,
GJP Policy Director