A true second chance | THE LAGRANGE DAILY NEWS

A true second chance | THE LAGRANGE DAILY NEWS

A true second chance | THE LAGRANGE DAILY NEWS

In July 2020, I wrote a column about Senate Bill 288 (SB 288). At the time, the governor ended up signing the bill that can help many Georgians remove the stigma of having a criminal conviction…

More than 4 million Georgia residents had a criminal record in 2016, according to the Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO)

“It is vital that we continue to reform Georgia’s criminal justice system so that reformation and reintegration is the goal, and not just punishment,” said Corey Burres, GCO’s vice president of communicaitons. “With SB 288, we are making real efforts to help past offenders access opportunities that may not be available to them due to their criminal record.”

Read the full article here

 

GCO welcomes Jace Brooks as Director of the Gwinnett Workforce Initiative

GCO welcomes Jace Brooks as Director of the Gwinnett Workforce Initiative

GCO welcomes Jace Brooks as Director of the

Gwinnett Workforce Initiative

March 2020 changed everything for Jace Brooks, as it did for so many Americans.

As a member of the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, Jace had worked for years to bring together nonprofits with government resources in the human-services area. All of these efforts went into overdrive when the first case of COVID-19 arrived in Gwinnett County. 

 

The global pandemic was no longer an abstract concept in the news—it was in our backyards impacting our neighbors. In a matter of months, Gwinnett County’s remarkable 2.4 percent unemployment rate spiked to 12.5 percent. Tens of thousands of residents were out of work, many of them homeless.

That’s when the Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) approached Jace about joining the team as a contractor to aid workforce development efforts in Gwinnett County. Initially, Jace worked to assemble a handful of service providers, nonprofits, schools, and employers to help the county’s struggling workers find stable work again. Those partnerships blossomed to over 25 organizations, companies, and schools, including Goodwill, Families First, Georgia Gwinnett College, the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, the public library system, Impact46, and the Community Foundation for Northeast Georgia.

 

The need hasn’t let up. In fact, it’s only growing, even as Gwinnett County rebounds from the economic shocks experienced in the spring. That is why GCO decided to bring on Jace full-time as our new Director of the Gwinnett Workforce Initiative.

“I have a deep love for Gwinnett County and the entire Atlanta metro region,” Jace says. “That’s been fostered through my service on the Suwanee City Council, the board of commissioners, and through volunteer time at my family’s church, Gwinnett Church. There are so many people struggling out there. I think of the single mom with a couple of kids, just looking for a place to stay or a meal. Through our partners, we can get her connected to all the right resources and move her from crisis to career. That is work so full of meaning, and I couldn’t be more excited to be on board with GCO.”

The Gwinnett Workforce Initiative is part of GCO’s broader effort to link underserved communities with the resources they need to thrive. It’s called Hiring Well, Doing Good (HWDG). This effort is based on the belief that a stable job is key to human flourishing. But it takes a concerted effort to come alongside struggling people to give them the resources, support, and training needed to succeed. And that help best comes from a bottom-up approach through our neighborhoods and communities, not top-down from government.

Op-Ed: It’s time for Georgia to reign in policing for profit

Op-Ed: It’s time for Georgia to reign in policing for profit

Op-Ed: It’s time for Georgia to reign in policing for profit

By Randy Hicks

Much needed conversations are happening in recent weeks across Georgia and our nation on policing reforms. One practical area of reform that can’t fall by the wayside is this: It’s time to break the connection between policing and profit.

What do I mean? Take the case of former Atlanta Hawks’ forward Mike Scott. He was stopped by Banks County police northeast of Atlanta while driving north on I-85 to host a youth basketball summer camp. A judge later reprimanded the police department for racial profiling in the case, and there was strong evidence that police were stopping drivers passing through the county for minor offenses specifically as a way to raise funds.

As a professional athlete with a multi-million-dollar contract, Scott had the resources to take the police department to the mat. But the vast majority of Georgians in the same situation would not. This underscores the fact that poor and minority populations are disproportionately impacted by policing-for-profit schemes.

We must change the way police departments are funded so that enforcement of the law and revenue generation are clearly separate. It goes without saying that courts, government, and police shouldn’t get a penny as a result of enforcing the law. Anything less creates an incentive for corruption.

One area where reform is immediately needed is called civil asset forfeiture. This is when law enforcement takes assets from people suspected of being involved in criminal activity without requiring a conviction. Police agencies may then receive funds from the sale of the forfeited assets. Used correctly, civil asset forfeiture is an important tool to curb illegal activities and dry up the resources of criminals. But the current system lacks transparency and accountability, presenting the opportunity for abuse.

What’s worse, the lack of strong governmental oversight and transparency in our system means that, all too often, a door to discrimination and undue burden is placed on folks who are simply in desperate need of a helping hand to get back on their feet.

My organization, the Georgia Center for Opportunity, has laid out a set of recommendations to shore up the system. We should begin by fostering greater accountability by requiring randomized compliance audits. This will help to ensure that all local law enforcement agencies are accurately reporting instances of civil asset forfeiture.

Updates are also badly needed to the government’s website that houses all civil asset forfeiture reports to make it easier for law enforcement to upload their reports and easier for the public to search and download content.

We could all be victims of these sorts of asset forfeitures, but the impacts are egregious for the poor and minorities.

Imagine being pulled over and your car being confiscated by police. For anyone this would be infuriating, but imagine you are someone in poverty. You likely don’t have access to the same network of friends or family members to help you get to your job. You also likely have less flexibility with your work schedule or working remotely.

The result is that civil asset forfeiture disproportionately targets those lacking the resources to fight for the return of their property. This can also inadvertently result in the types of confrontations we have seen in recent weeks, where tensions unnecessarily escalate to deadly levels.

We believe that civil asset forfeiture reform is crucial to a thriving state. We can do that by ending the profit motive behind the system and by making it much more transparent. It is a key step to create a society where everyone has the opportunity to flourish.

 

This article originally appeared in the Telegraph.

Gov. Kemp signs bill into law expanding job opportunities for military spouses

Gov. Kemp signs bill into law expanding job opportunities for military spouses

Gov. Kemp signs bill into law expanding job opportunities for military spouses

 

 

By David Bass

 

With our state experiencing a 7.6% unemployment rate in June (the most recent numbers available), it’s clear that every Georgian needs all the help possible to find and maintain stable employment. That’s why the Georgia Center for Opportunity team was excited to see Gov. Brian Kemp sign a new bill into law (HB914) that knocks down a significant barrier to employment for new Georgia residents.

 

The new law provides a temporary occupational license to spouses of members of the armed services who move to Georgia. Georgia has the 5th largest number of military, civilian direct-hire, reserve, and national guard employees in the U.S. Spouses of these employees will now have a greater opportunity to obtain employment in the career of their choice.

 

“Particularly in the COVID-19 era, breaking down barriers to employment is more important than ever,” said Buzz Brockway, vice president of public policy at Georgia Center for Opportunity. “Restrictions on occupational licensing can be an enormous one of these barriers. It’s the least we can do for our men and women in uniform to ensure that their spouses have the ability to work in their area of expertise in our state.”

 

Gov. Kemp signs ‘second chance’ expungement bill into law for ex-offenders

Gov. Kemp signs ‘second chance’ expungement bill into law for ex-offenders

Gov. Kemp signs ‘second chance’ expungement bill into law for ex-offenders

 

 

By David Bass

 

For many Georgians, past criminal conviction can be the most significant hurdle to overcome in getting a job. On this front, there is good news: Gov. Brian Kemp recently signed a bill (SB288) into law that allows formerly incarcerated individuals to petition the court to have certain misdemeanor convictions erased from their record four years after the completion of their sentence. 

 

The new law excludes certain offenses, including sexual offenses and DUIs. In a crucial move, the law also creates incentives for employers to make “second chance” hires.

 

This new law allows for an easier transition back into the workforce for a segment of Georgia’s population that has paid its debt to society and stayed on the straight and narrow.

 

“This new law is monumental because it takes Georgia off the list of only a handful of states where a criminal offense stays on an ex-offender’s record perpetually,” said Buzz Brockway, vice president of policy at Georgia Center for Opportunity. “We know that unemployment is a key way to help ex-offenders not repeat their crimes. Particularly in the COVID-19 era, breaking down any barriers to employment that we can is always a huge win. We applaud Gov. Kemp and the Georgia Legislature for making this law a reality.”

 

A true second chance | THE LAGRANGE DAILY NEWS

Less than half of Georgians approve of how Trump, Kemp have responded to COVID-19 | 11 Alive News

Less than half of Georgians approve of how Trump, Kemp have responded to COVID-19 | 11 Alive News

A new, exclusive 11Alive News/SurveyUSA Poll finds that if a coronavirus vaccine is developed, a full one-third of Georgians are not likely to take it.

While there is a consensus across the state that the nation has done a poor job at controlling the spread of the virus, many Georgia residents are torn on what needs to be done in order to correct the problems that exists…

 

The partisan divide is making it more difficult for officials and scientists to curb the pandemic, said GOP former state Rep. Buzz Brockway.  “I think that is hampering us,” said Brockway, who is now with the Georgia Center for Opportunity. “A crisis should be something that brings us all together. But it’s not. It’s forcing us into some of our camps.”

 

Read the full article here