Reentry Reform Bills Introduced in Legislature

Two vital pieces of criminal justice reform legislation were introduced this week in the Georgia General Assembly. Drafted by the Georgia Justice Project, both pieces of legislation focus on aspects of reentry reform, specifically probation and driver’s license reinstatement.

Under Gov. Nathan Deal, Georgia became a national leader on criminal justice reform, surpassing even some blue states with a focus on recidivism reduction, fairer sentencing, and reentry. Although continued work on criminal justice reform isn’t a high priority for Gov. Brian Kemp, he has signed legislation, SB 288, in 2020 to expand the state’s existing expungement statute and the Georgia Dignity Act, HB 345, in 2019.

This week, state Sen. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) introduced SB 105 to allow individuals on probation to seek early termination of their probation. SB 105 requires that individuals on probation serve at least three years of probation and successfully meet other eligibility criteria to have their probation terminated.

HB 330, introduced by Rep. Bill Werkheiser (R-Glennville), would waive the $100 reinstatement fee for a driver’s license. The reinstatement fee can be particularly harsh on lower-income Georgians, who may not be able to pay $100 to get their driver’s license reinstated. This creates problems in which some Georgia may get caught in a cycle of poverty and could lead to other involvement with the criminal justice system. HB 330 is only a step toward addressing the issue, but it’s an important one to take.

SB 105 and HB 330 have been referred to their chamber’s respective committees, Senate Judiciary and House Motor Vehicles. Both bills are deserving of passage. Here’s hoping Speaker Ralston and Lt. Gov. Duncan prioritize them.

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