PRISONER REENTRY

GCO’s Prisoner Reentry Initiative focuses on removing barriers for ex-offenders to successfully rejoin their communities by obtaining employment and connecting with their families.

ABOUT PRISONER REENTRY

Georgia Center for Opportunity’s Prisoner Reentry Initiative began as an attempt to understand the driving force behind Georgia’s high recidivism rate and develop solutions to reduce this number. From July 2013 to June 2014, Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) convened monthly meetings of prisoner reentry experts from the nonprofit, government, academic, and private sectors. These meetings focused on identifying barriers to successful prisoner reentry and solutions to remove those barriers. With the guidance of these experts, GCO has published reports and advocated for solutions that will help people returning from prison obtain employment, connect with their families, and rejoin their communities.

PRISONER REENTRY

BACKGROUND

Georgia leads the country in the number of
people under correctional supervision.

info-prisoner

adult Georgians are either in jail, in prison, on probation, or on parole, as compared to 1 in 31 adults nationally.

adult Georgians are either in jail, in prison, on probation, or on parole, as compared to 1 in 31 adults nationally.

WITHIN 3 YEARS

2/3 OF THOSE RELEASED
FROM PRISON WILL LIKELY HAVE BEEN REARRESTED

OUR SOLUTIONS

Through our research and work with prisoner reentry experts, we have proposed and advocated for many solutions to remove unnecessary barriers to reentry. These recommendations include:

1. Increasing Employment Opportunities by

  • Lifting driver’s license suspensions for those who have not committed a driving-related crime
  • Ensuring that every person receives proper identification before being released from prison
  • Lifting professional license restrictions for those who have a felony conviction that is unrelated to the profession sought
  • Incentivizing employers to hire people reentering society from prison through bonding programs, tax credits or deductions, and liability protection

2. Encouraging returning citizens to repay their debts and pay current obligations by

  • Providing offenders the ability to earn and save money while in prison
  • Offering incentives such as forgiving a portion of debt owed to the state in exchange for regular payment of child support and restitution
  • Reinstating driver’s licenses that were suspended for non-payment of child support
  • Creating realistic repayment plans based on returning citizens’ financial situation
  • Expanding the Fatherhood Program and Parental Accountability Courts to provide necessary supervision and job assistance for chronic non-payers of child support

3. Promoting reforms to the criminal justice system itself by 

  • Aligning the recruiting and education of the criminal justice workforce to focus on protecting society and preparing offenders for successful reentry by addressing their underlying needs
  • Incorporating concepts of restorative justice into the system to address the needs of the victim, the community, and the offender by promoting healing and restoring relationships

OUTCOMES

The passion and commitment of the individuals involved in GCO’s Prisoner Reentry Working Group, combined with the level of open communication and impeccable timing of the effort, has allowed the group to exert an important influence in shaping policy and legislation in our state.

Changes in law

  • The state passed SB 365 in April 2014 which gives judge’s discretion to not automatically suspend driver’s licenses for drug offenders who committed a non-driving-related offense, as well as protects employers from liability in hiring a person with a criminal record, consistent with recommendations made in GCO’s December 2013 report, Increasing Employment Opportunities for Ex-Offenders.
  • The Georgia Legislature passed HB 328 during the 2015 legislative session which provides offenders who have completed a drug court program to be eligible for obtaining professional licensing, consistent with a recommendation from our December 2013 report.

Changes in policy

  • In February 2015, Georgia became the first state in the South to officially “ban the box” on applications for state employment through an executive order issued by Governor Deal, a step recommended in our December 2013 report and by numerous advocacy organizations in Georgia.
  • Beginning in February 2015, the Division of Child Support Services, superior court judges, probation, and parole  have been communicating how to best ensure people involved in the criminal justice system pay child support while receiving the necessary supervision and assistance they need to find a job and make consistent payments once in the community, recommended in our December 2014 report, A High Price to Pay.
  • As of July 2015, the state is seeking to expand Parental Accountability Courts to cover all 49 judicial circuits, which has the potential of saving local counties as much as $13 million per year in reduced costs of incarceration. The PAC program provides chronic non-payers of child support the opportunity to overcome barriers to employment and consistently support their children.

PRISONER REENTRY REPORTS

A High Price to Pay 
Published in December 2014 and revised in May 2015, this report provides solutions that aim to minimize the role debt has in driving recidivism rates. People often leave prison owing tens of thousands of dollars in debt, creating serious obstacles to a successful reentry. The state should take this into consideration and establish realistic payment plans and incentives to encourage returning citizens to pay current obligations and repay debts according to their ability.

The State of Corrections: Fact Sheet 
This fact sheet provides a snapshot of the issue of mass incarceration and recidivism in the United States and Georgia. It outlines the scope of the issue, provides demographics, displays recidivism trends, and details the cost it is having on society.

Issue in Brief: Prisoner Reentry 
Published in July 2013, this report summarizes the current gaps identified within Georgia’s reentry system based upon the available evidence, including official state reports, site visits to prisons and reentry service providers, and over four dozen expert interviews. In spite of these gaps, the report also highlights emerging solutions that Georgia is implementing to reduce offender recidivism across the state, including Residential Substance Abuse Treatment Centers, Specialized Courts and Risk and Needs Assessments

Increasing Employment Opportunities for Ex-offenders
Published in December 2013, this report focuses on ways to improve workforce reentry for ex-offenders in Georgia. GCO offers six recommendations for Georgia to consider implementing and is a product of GCO’s Prisoner Reentry Working Group that is developing solutions for curbing recidivism and improving offenders’ transition back into their community.

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