Gov. Nathan Deal is not one of the Georgia Republicans who’ve tried to leverage President Donald Trump’s popularity. Deal admitted after Trump was elected that they had met only briefly and didn’t really know each other. They met briefly again when Trump came to Atlanta for the College Football National Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Trump left at halftime. Deal stayed for the whole game.
But at the moment, they are closely aligned. Deal met Thursday with Trump and other governors, state attorneys general and federal leaders to discuss criminal justice reform. On that topic, Deal has become an expert in his eight years in office. The governor sent out a news release Friday with a photo from the meeting showing Deal talking and Trump listening. Deal was talking about the results of his criminal justice reform efforts in Georgia, which have reversed the growth of the prison population, put accountability treatment courts in all 159 counties to keep nonviolent offenders out of jail and offered a hand up for those being released from incarceration.
“Smart on crime is not the same as soft on crime, which our results bear out,” Deal said. “In Georgia, we are addressing barriers to successful reentry through job training programs, ban-the-box legislation and operating a charter school in our prison system. We have implemented such initiatives while making our communities safer, with a 10 percent decrease in the violent crime rate and a 20 percent decrease in overall crime, all while saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. We have also seen the African-American percentage of our prison system drop significantly since 2009, as incarceration rates for black males have dropped almost 30 percent and incarceration rates for black females have dropped 38.2 percent. Overall African-American commitments to our prisons are at the lowest level since 1987. I am pleased to share any information that might be helpful for a national model of reforming criminal justice.”
Deal touted additional results of Georgia’s criminal justice reform initiatives, including:
- The recidivism rate for an individual who graduates from an accountability court is just 2 percent.
- There has been a 24 percent decrease in recidivism for those who complete vocational training programs while incarcerated.
- Recidivism rates for those who earn a GED while incarcerated have decreased by 19 percent.
- Total commitments to the Department of Juvenile Justice are down 46 percent since 2014.
Deal’s news release included like-minded quotes from the president.
“Our first duty is to our citizens, including those who have taken the wrong path but are seeking redemption and a new beginning,” Trump said. “We’ve passed the First Step Act through the House, and we’re working very hard in the Senate to refine it and pass it into law. We think we’ll be successful in that regard. The bill expands vocational educational programs to eligible federal inmates so that more of them can learn a trade. And that’s what we’re doing. We’re teaching them trades. We’re teaching them different things that they can put into good use, and put into use to get jobs.”
Other than the accents, they sounded the same.