Gov. honors MLK and highlights latest criminal justice reforms - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Gov. honors MLK and highlights latest criminal justice reforms

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ATLANTA, GA (WALB) -

During a speech Monday at Dr. Martin Luther King Junior's former church, Ebenezer Baptist in Atlanta, Gov. Nathan Deal said he supports a permanent honor for the late civil rights leader at the state capitol.

Lawmakers are considering a bill that would place a statue of King, paid for with private donations, on the capitol grounds. Governor Deal stopped short of endorsing that plan, but he did say he is "committed to finding an appropriate way to honor Dr. King on our Capitol Hill."

In that speech, the Governor also highlighted his ongoing criminal justice reforms which he says follow King's philosophy of working to change lives for the better.

This year, Deal is focusing on finding ways to help offenders become productive members of society so they don't go back to jail.

That's something the Dougherty District Attorney Greg Edwards says is needed. "Most individuals that wind up in the justice system do reenter back into society, so we must do all we can to re-educate, re-orient, and make them productive citizens the best way we can."

State Representative Jay Powell from Camilla says previous efforts to reform the criminal justice system have worked well and saved the state money. He says this is an important third phase. "It's a financial aspect of it, and it's also a community aspect. We don't need to lose human resources by warehousing them away, but we've got to keep our communities safe."

Over the last two years, the General Assembly passed bills overhauling the adult and juvenile justice systems to focus less on incarcerating non-violent offenders and more on community programs to help them.

Among this year's proposals, the Governor wants private employers not to reject applicants outright because of a criminal conviction and the state could mandate that for state agencies.

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