Gov. Nathan Deal
Gov. Nathan Deal (John Disney/Staff)

The National Association of Drug Court Professionals named Gov. Nathan Deal the 2014 Governor of the Year at its annual training conference in Anaheim, California.

Deal, a Republican running for reelection this year against state Sen. Jason Carter, D-Atlanta, made criminal justice reform a centerpiece of his platform for his first term as governor. In the last three years, the state has allotted more than $20 million to start or bolster accountability courts across the state, according to the state’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee.

“I’m humbled by this award and honored to accept it on behalf of all those who work relentlessly on enhancing our state’s justice system,” Deal said in a press release. His son, Hall County Superior Court Judge Jason J. Deal, presides over a DUI court.

Accountability courts identify low-risk, nonviolent offenders and offer them a drug or DUI court alternative to jail. DeKalb State Court Judge Dax Lopez, who runs a DUI court, said his participants must submit to three drug screenings a week, attend three court classes a week and three Alcoholics Anonymous meetings a week for 48 weeks to stay out of jail. The participants must appear in court on a regular basis to account for their progress or problems.

Deal estimates by diverting the addicts and alcoholics from jail, the state has saved $50 million in the last three years.

The national drug court association comprises of judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement, probation officers, treatment providers, social workers and other court personnel. Deal received the award in person on May 29.