GJP advocates to change criminal justice policies that have disproportionately and negatively impacted poor people and people of color.
Every day, our clients’ experiences show us how a range of systems pull people into the legal system and leave them with a record that follows for life – no matter the seriousness of the alleged offense or what that person has done since. We also know that these systems do not affect everyone equally. Aggressive policing and arrest policies, harsh and discriminatory sentencing practices, and unequal application of laws that impose barriers to reentry disproportionately harm communities of color. All this leads to 4.5 million people with a Georgia criminal record who face a lifetime of perpetual punishment.
GJP believes a better Georgia is possible. When our clients encounter systemic barriers, we strive to correct them. Since 2012, we have successfully advocated for 22 changes to Georgia law that have impacted millions by reducing the number of people under correctional control and removing barriers to reentry.
Today, our policy work continues as it began: rooted in direct service. In 2009, we first entered into policy advocacy out of our representation of individuals denied housing vouchers due to their criminal record. Since then, we have expanded access to record clearing (including expungement, known as “restriction and sealing” in Georgia), improved Georgia’s First Offender law, created an automated system to terminate probation early, opened eligibility for receipt of Food Stamps, created access to licensed professions, limited unnecessary driver’s license suspensions, and both protected and rewarded employers who engage in second chance hiring.
Core to our approach is collaboration. We work with allies across the private and public sectors, from corporations to non-profits to government. From 2011 to 2019, GJP worked closely with the Council on Criminal Justice Reform under Governor Nathan Deal, sitting alongside diverse interests and lawmakers to advance an era of reform. In 2020, we engaged a coalition of 67 organizations and congregations in the Second Chance for Georgia campaign to successfully advocate for criminal record clearing reform and the passage of Senate Bill 288. A year later, we worked closely with state agencies and advocates to draft and advocate for Senate Bill 105, expanding the ability of people on felony probation to terminate their probation early. We continue to take a pragmatic and evidence-based approach to policy advocacy with a broad range of bipartisan stakeholders.
Also key to our work is engagement with Georgia corporations, small businesses, and chambers of commerce. Although access to steady employment is the undisputed key to successful reentry, 72% of collateral consequences impose barriers to work. That is why much of our advocacy has focused on reducing barriers to employment, and we work closely with partners to further that goal.
A full list of laws that GJP has either drafted and advocated for or worked in coalition to support can be found on our Policy Accomplishments page.
There is a lot of work that remains to be done. Our current priorities include:
Want to get involved in making positive change for Georgia?
We would love to keep you updated and provide you with information you need to stay informed and advocate for your community. Here are ways you can help:
For more information about our current policy agenda or to share your story, please contact:
Policy Manager Wade Askew