By Mike Klein
Georgia is seeking several million dollars to implement the state’s prisoner reentry initiative which is the third leg in comprehensive adult and juvenile justice reforms begun three years ago. The basic framework for five grant submissions was approved when the Criminal Justice Reform Council met Monday morning at the state capitol in Atlanta.
Fully funded, the grants would bring $6.75 million to Georgia over three years. All five grants would be through the Bureau of Justice Assistance which is part of the U.S. Department of Justice. The final documents are still works-in-progress but all five grants have submission deadlines either later this month or in early June.
The five grants were presented to the Council by Jay Neal, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Transition, Support and Reentry. Neal is a former legislator and criminal justice reform advocate who assumed his post last fall. Watch Neal on YouTube.
Here is a brief description of each grant:
· State of Georgia Data Sharing Initiative: A multiple agencies project to create information sharing technology solutions that would enable correction agencies and community service boards to improve and automate the flow of information about offenders. Surprisingly, this is not possible with current in-place technology. Value: $500,000.
· Smart Supervision Grant: Training for more than 700 post-prison supervision staff that directly interacts with former offenders after their release into the community. Includes training for community-based partners. Value: $750,000 over two years.
· Statewide Recidivism Reduction Grant: This multimillion dollar, multiple years grant would become the backbone for the prisoner reentry initiative with dollars set aside for salaries and benefits for community-based personnel, program resources, online data banks that describe resources available in counties, technology support and more. Last year Georgia won a $100,000 grant to begin preparation for this work. Value: $3 million over three years.
· Justice Reinvestment: Maximizing State Reforms Grant: Work performed under this grant would focus on each individual during four key points of interaction with the justice system: at prison intake, at the release decision, upon reentering the community and post-release supervision discharge. Areas that must be addressed include housing, employment, health treatment and others as they apply individually. Value: $1.75 million over three years.
· Second Chance Act Recidivism Reduction Demonstration Grant: These dollars would assist community service boards that work with state officials to develop localized job skills training, assistance with local employment and, similarly, help to find local housing. Some substance abuse and mental health services would be available as needed.
Prisoner reentry is expected to dominate this year’s discussions. “The Council has taken a crack at perfecting adult sentencing reforms twice and perfecting juvenile justice reforms once,” said council co-chairman Thomas Worthy, “so this is our big year to really go back and not only perfect but I think everyone’s expectation is to expand the reentry reforms.”
The best way to make a lasting impact on public policy is to change public opinion. When you change the beliefs of the people; the politicians and political parties change with them.