The one-day gathering will be held in Atlanta on November 16, 2011 and will include representatives from fifteen southern states working on issues related to collateral consequences and criminal histories. The purpose of the gathering is to create an opportunity for groups that assist clients who have a criminal history or advocate and organize for legislative reform in this area to meet each other and share best practices.
The long-term goal is to figure out how those organizations can work together to lessen the negative impact of a criminal arrest or conviction in the south. A strong southern coalition is necessary because the southern states erect more barriers for those with criminal records, while they have the highest rates of incarceration in the United States. Anyone working on these issues in the south knows that there is much work to be done, and that any criminal justice related reform in this region faces unique challenges. Our experience teaches us that what works in California or New York might not be the best strategy for Alabama or Mississippi.
Georgia Justice Project (GJP) is one of four groups that have been working for the last few months to bring this coalition together and plan this inaugural meeting. The other organizations are the National H.I.R.E. Network, the National Employment Law Project (NELP), and the North Carolina Office of Indigent Defense. This group has worked to develop an agenda and is in the process of inviting participants from each of the fifteen target states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia.