Poverty Agenda 2021 | 5 policy prescriptions to reduce poverty in Georgia

Poverty Agenda 2021 | 5 policy prescriptions to reduce poverty in Georgia

Poverty Agenda 2021 | 5 policy prescriptions to reduce poverty in Georgia

As the Georgia Legislature reconvenes next week, the Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) is calling on lawmakers to make poverty-fighting measures one of their top goals. Along these lines, GCO has released the following 5 recommendations to reduce poverty in Georgia and expand economic mobility:

Civil Asset Forfeiture

GCO produced a report (PDF download) examining Georgia’s civil asset forfeiture procedures. Civil asset forfeiture laws allow for an arrested person’s property to be seized, sold, and the proceeds used for law enforcement purposes, even if a person is not convicted of a crime. Our report makes several recommendations to improve transparency and accountability in this program. GCO will seek to have our recommendations passed into law.

Occupational Licensing

Following up on legislation passed last year benefiting spouses of our brave military personnel, GCO will support legislation to allow many other people who move to Georgia and hold an occupation license to immediately be granted a provisional license. This will allow these new Georgians to immediately go to work and support their families.

Criminal Justice Reform

GCO will support legislation that seeks to remove suspending the driver’s license of a person late on their child support payments. We approach this topic with sensitivity, knowing these payments are meant to support children, but losing a driver’s license impacts the debtor’s ability to work—and thus the ability to pay. There are better ways to hold people accountable for past due child support.

Education Scholarship Accounts

GCO has long supported empowering parents by creating Education Scholarship Accounts (ESAs). We will support such legislation again this year. ESAs take the state portions of a child’s education funds and allow parents to seek other educational pathways for their child. This is especially important in the time of COVID-19, where face-to-face instruction is limited but still extremely important to a child’s development.

Special Needs Scholarship Program

Last year, GCO championed legislation to fix a loophole in Georgia’s Special Needs Scholarship Program that has been keeping thousands of otherwise eligible children out of the program. The legislation passed the Georgia Senate, but was sidelined when the pandemic hit our state. We will work to see this legislation pass both Legislative Chambers and be signed successfully by Governor Kemp this year.

The GCO team will keep you updated throughout the session as we work on these priorities. Keep up with us on Facebook or Twitter for regular updates and be sure to join us for Get Buzz’d a live update on Facebook from our VP of Policy, Buzz Brockway. Buzz shares his insight into how policies will impact your everyday life.

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.

Why should you care about the ex-offender in your community?

Why should you care about the ex-offender in your community?

Local coalition works to reduce recidivism rates and replace stigmas with compassion

When it comes to tackling deep-rooted social issues, no single organization can do it alone. The Greater Gwinnett Reentry Alliance (GGRA) is a coalition of service providers in Gwinnett County that works to mobilize community resources — human, financial, and material — all with the purpose of reducing recidivism rates in the county and beyond…

Other partners in GGRA include GRIP, Hearts to Nourish Hope, Navigate Recovery, United Way of Greater Atlanta, Georgia Center for Opportunity, Judy House Ministry, Obria Medical Clinics and others.

 

Read the full article here

Why should you care about the ex-offender in your community?

Georgia Senate committee votes to maintain felon rights restrictions

The Senate Study Committee on Revising Voting Rights for Nonviolent Felony Offenders decided Wednesday to keep Georgia’s constitution as it is.

The members voted 3-2 in favor of continuing to restrict nearly 250,000 convicted Georgia felons from voting.

According to Georgia’s law, people who have been convicted of crimes with moral turpitude cannot vote until they complete their full sentence, including probation or parole. The U.S. Department of Justice defines moral turpitude as “conduct that shocks the public conscience.”

The state’s constitution does not clearly define the term, however, leaving all felonies subject to the law.

The committee was created to study which specific nonviolent crimes should be eligible for voting rights restoration based upon the moral turpitude exemption. Over four months, the committee heard testimony from advocacy groups on different sides of criminal justice reform.

According to the Georgia Center for Opportunity, one in 13 adults in Georgia is in jail, prison, on probation or parole. That’s significantly higher than the national average of one in 31.

 

Read the full article here

A Vision For Poverty Transformation In Columbus Through Hiring Well Doing Good

A Vision For Poverty Transformation In Columbus Through Hiring Well Doing Good

A Vision For Poverty Transformation In Columbus Through Hiring Well Doing Good

Q&A: Norman Hardman on Hiring Well, Doing Good in Columbus

Norman Hardman is a lifelong resident of Columbus, Georgia. After starting his career in the world of finance, he’s now taken his passion and skillset and applied them to one purpose: helping the impoverished in Columbus escape to a new, thriving life.

 Norman is a partner with Georgia Center for Opportunity’s work through Hiring Well, Doing Good initiative. Here’s a brief Q&A with him.

 

Q: Tell us about yourself. What’s your passion in life?  

Norman: I was born and raised in Columbus, and my family has strong ties here. All my schooling has been locally here: Columbus State University and then finished my Master’s Degree at Troy University. After graduating, I spent six-and-a-half years in the banking world. I worked inside the bank and worked in the community outside the bank. That gave me a taste for what I do now. 

Toward the end of my banking career, I developed a passion for education. In my job I made personal and small business loans to people, and I started focusing on those who were rejected for loans rather than accepted. It created a desire to find out why—why were they being denied?  

After that, my first thought was that I needed more tools in my toolbelt. So I started the process of becoming a Certified Financial Planner to help people better manage their money. Then, through a series of events, I found myself back in the world of Christian ministry. My family had been in ministry in Columbus for 26 years, and I always thought I would end up back there. 

In 2018, my mom as a senior pastor passed away after a six-year battle with colon cancer. My brother took over as senior pastor. We talked before about me coming on. I prayed about it and eventually said yes. In June of 2018, I took over as head of the evangelistic and outreach departments. 

 

I loved everything I heard, from her first word to last word. We were in sync on our visions for Columbus.

Norman Hardman

 

 

Q: How did you come to be involved with Hiring Well, Doing Good? 

Norman: The mission of Hiring Well, Doing Good is really my passion in life.

Not quite two years ago, I got out into the community and said, “I want to know what’s already here. I don’t want to duplicate anything.” I wanted to start connecting the dots for families in the community. 

I met with Brian Anderson, president of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, to see what was going on in the community. Brian then connected me with Kristin Barker (Program Manager for Hiring Well, Doing Good). I loved everything I heard, from her first word to last word. We were in sync on our visions for Columbus.

 

Q: What’s your vision for poverty transformation in Columbus? 

Norman: My goal is prosperous families in every facet of the word prosperity, especially economic prosperity.   

But here’s the thing: I don’t just want to see people escape poverty by leaving their neighborhoods—say, moving from the south side of Columbus to the north side. I want them to stay in their neighborhoods and transform them. I want to see people go through the process together—see them become first-time homeowners, create prosperous communities, see the birth of new community leaders and programs, and families continuing to grow and thrive.

 

Q: What excites you in particular about Hiring Well, Doing Good’s approach? 

Norman: I know and have met people who are passionate. We all have different ideas about how to do that—some focused on healthcare, some on education. My baby is finance. Hiring Well, Doing Good brings us all to the table to say where are those points of intersectionality. It’s great to have a plan for each individual thing. But we know what really moves the needle on poverty is when everything comes together—when we communicate with one another and transfer data.

We currently have a strong network of community partners who are doing a great job of meeting the immediate needs of our community. Yet there is much more work to be done in order to address systemic poverty. Hiring Well, Doing Good brings each of us to the table and facilitates critical conversations that will lead to a reduction in poverty in our community.

 

Q: When we are successful in reducing poverty in Columbus, what will that look like in practical terms?

Norman: For me, I believe it’s major improvements in quality of life. That will manifest in many different forms. We won’t know until we see it. When we start to set people free, they’ll be creative in ways we could never have imagined. We’ll see improvements in education, the local economy, and our social and religious culture. We’ll see growth of trust and organic activity in the community. We’ll see an enriching culture here in Columbus. It will cause our city to grow and provide new opportunities.

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