Georgia is receiving national attention as the state recently received four competitive federal grants from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) to implement its Prisoner Reentry Initiative (GA-PRI). Georgia is the only state to have received all four grants at one time – a testament to the smart framework that the state has developed to bring about significant reductions in recidivism.
The Governor’s Office of Transition, Support and Reentry (GOTSR) developed the GA-PRI Framework with the assistance of the Center for Justice Innovation last fall and began taking steps to implement it at five pilot sites around the state. GOTSR took these steps knowing that additional funding would be necessary to successfully carry out this initiative.
The office applied for the BJA grants around the beginning of summer with the hopes that it would receive the funding necessary to hire the right staff, provide evidence-based training and implementation, improve information sharing and measuring outcomes, and establish quality assurance mechanisms.
Jay Neal, executive director of GOTSR, explained that the office applied for the grants with the expectation that each one would fund a different component of the initiative and build on each other. This created a package deal that would enable the state to fully implement the GA-PRI framework without duplicating funds. This smart strategy appealed to BJA, who awarded the office each grant for which it applied.
The four grants that Georgia received for this initiative include:
|Smart Supervision Grant||Department of Corrections; Governor’s Office of Transition, Support and Reentry||$750,000|
|Statewide Recidivism Reduction Grant||Department of Corrections; Governor’s Office of Transition, Support and Reentry||$3,000,000|
|Justice Information Sharing Solutions Grant||Criminal Justice Coordinating Council||$498,234|
|Justice Reinvestment: Maximizing State Reforms Grant||Department of Corrections; Governor’s Office of Transition, Support and Reentry||$1,750,000|
Now that the state has received these grants, the next challenge will be to put all of its planning into action. This implementation phase will be critical to the success of prisoner reentry reform in Georgia, and the state understands that it will take collaboration among all stakeholders in the community for it to be successful, including businesses, churches, educational institutions, non-profits, and others.
GOTSR will be presenting its three year implementation strategy at the Justice Reinvestment National Summit in San Diego (November 17-19, 2014) where hundreds of people from over 30 states will be represented. These states will be looking at Georgia to see how well the state can implement its new reentry framework to reduce recidivism.
Georgia’s goal is to see a decrease in recidivism by seven percent in two years, and by 11 percent over five years.
The momentum for reform is strong right now in Georgia, but the true test of the state’s commitment to preparing citizens for successful reintegration will have to be seen in the coming years as the inevitable difficulties of implementation arise.
For now, the state’s leaders seem prepared to face those challenges as they arise. There is a prevailing optimism that can be heard in government boardrooms and local reentry coalitions around the state, especially as people recount the incredible progress that has been made in Georgia over the last four years in the area of criminal justice reform.