The Georgia General Assembly met this week for legislative days 13 through 16 and will reconvene on Tuesday, February 16 for legislative day 17. Activity in both chambers is in full swing now, with daily committee hearings and more than 600 Senate and House bills introduced so far. SCHR continues to meet with advocates and lawmakers to ensure that lawmakers are informed and well-resourced when introducing legislation that impacts the criminal legal system.
Legislation SCHR Supports:
Citizen’s Arrest Repeal – Governor Kemp has indicated that he intends to introduce legislation this week to repeal Georgia’s citizen’s arrest law. Repealing this antiquated and dangerous policy is a necessary step in eliminating state-sanctioned violence. Stay tuned for next week’s legislative update for a bill number and summary.
Raising the Age of Juvenile Court Jurisdiction to 17 – HB 272 (Sponsor: Rep. Mandi Ballinger) – HB 272 is expected to be heard and voted on by the House Juvenile Justice Committee on Tuesday, February 16 at 1pm. We know that the juvenile justice system is better equipped than the adult system to respond to children’s unique needs and incredible capacity for growth and rehabilitation, and we look forward to working with legislators and partners to support the passage of this bill. The link to the hearing livestream will be posted here.
Legislation SCHR Opposes:
Punitive Response to Street Racing – SB 10 (Sponsor: Sen. Emanuel Jones) – SB 10 is an effort to increase penalties for people who participate in street racing events. On Wednesday, February 10, Subcommittee A of the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on SB 10. The sponsor presented a new draft of the bill that, like the original version, relies only on a punitive approach to the problem of illegal street racing. A full summary of the bill is below, but two new features are worth noting:
- Adopts higher progressive penalties for the existing offenses of drag racing and laying drag: a fine of $1,000 for the first conviction, $2,000 for the second, and $5,000 for the third.
- Requires that any high-performance vehicle used for laying drag or drag racing be considered contraband upon the operator’s second arrest and subject to civil asset forfeiture.
The subcommittee did not take a vote on the bill on Wednesday. We will alert our partners when it is scheduled for further committee action and will continue to recommend to lawmakers that further study of illegal street racing is necessary to develop solutions that will solve the problem and not cause further harm to Black and Brown communities.
Limiting Parole Eligibility – SB 288 (Sponsor: Rep. Dave Belton) – SB 288 would require that a person serve a minimum number of years of their prison sentence before being eligible for parole – regardless of the nature of their conviction or their record while incarcerated. This bill was heard in the Reeves Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee on Monday, February 8. Raising concerns about the costs associated with the bill and potential constitutional issues, the subcommittee chairman did not call a vote on the bill and suggested that more work would be done on the legislation.
Other Legislative Updates:
Pregnant Women in the Criminal Legal System – HB 377 (Sponsor: Rep. Kim Schofield) – Rep. Schofield has introduced a new version of a bill intended to end prison birth. This proposal (which originally appeared in HB 58) was reintroduced with a new Republican co-sponsor, Chairman Sharon Cooper. Unlike the original version which required the deferral of a pregnant woman’s sentence until 12 weeks after giving birth, HB 377 provides judicial discretion to order such deferral, if the woman consents. If a woman’s sentence is deferred, she would be required to contact the Department of Community Supervision every two weeks to confirm that she is receiving perinatal healthcare (which could include things like taking vitamins and other medicines, adhering to a special diet, and attending regular doctor visits). The woman would be required to begin her prison sentence immediately if she failed to comply with these provisions or if her pregnancy was terminated for any reason. Finally, the bill requires penal institutions to report data related to this issue to the Department of Public Health. The bill has been assigned to the House Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee. SCHR recognizes the harm caused to women when they are forced to give birth while incarcerated as well as the harm to their children and families, and we will work with our partners and lawmakers to ensure that this legislation effectively ends prison birth.
Updates on the Budget – The amended budget for the current fiscal year, FY21, was passed by the Senate and the House. Security officers at the Georgia Department of Corrections and the Department of Juvenile Justice will receive a 10% salary increase, and all full-time state employees making less than $80,000 will receive a one-time bonus of $1,000. The bill now awaits the governor’s signature, and the House of Representatives will begin its work on the big budget for Fiscal Year 2022.
Justice Day 2020 – On February 25th, SCHR and partners of the Justice Reform Partnership will host Justice Day 2021: “Where Do We Go from Here: Community out of Chaos.” This year’s Justice Day will be the tenth annual criminal justice advocacy day, and we’re going virtual! Like previous years, this event will give people an opportunity to learn about criminal legal reforms, build relationships with each other, and advocate for change to their elected officials. We’re excited to be joined by Nse Ufot, CEO at the New Georgia Project, as our keynote speaker! Register for Justice Day 2021 here: www.tinyurl.com/justiceday2021.
Talk Justice Tuesdays 2021 – This week, the Justice Reform Partnership hosted the third event in the 2021 Talk Justice Tuesday series. Entitled “Talk Justice Tuesday: Pretrial Detention & Diversion,” this week’s virtual event gave attendees the opportunity to learn about how minimizing punitive and harmful responses before a person is tried can improve outcomes for individuals and communities. Attendees heard from a Georgia woman who was recently arrested and experienced the pretrial process firsthand, witnessing how access to financial resources in the early stages of a criminal case can unfairly dictate the outcome of a case. Next, Kristin Schillig and Kelly Prejean shared how they and their partners in Fulton County are providing opportunities for pre-trial diversion and services for people with mental illness. Finally, Hannah Riley and Marissa Dodson from SCHR shared tips with attendees for responding to fear-based messaging on which lawmakers and the media too often rely when discussing cash bail policies. You can access the recording of this week’s Talk Justice Tuesday on the JRP’s Facebook page.
The series will continue on Tuesday, February 16, with an event focusing on Extreme Sentencing. You can find more information and register for the event here: www.justicereformpartnership.org/tjt.
Out of Isolation, Into Action – SCHRhaspartnered with RestoreHer and the Unlock the Box Campaign to continue in our work to end the use of solitary confinement in Georgia. On February 27 at 2pm, we will host our second event in our “Out of Isolation, Into Action” community meeting series. If you or your loved one has been directly impacted by solitary confinement, or you know someone who would like to participate, send an email to Page Dukes ([email protected]) with contact information so that we can make sure they are invited.
As the 2021 session continues, we will update you weekly on our work and the ways you can virtually advocate for meaningful criminal legal reforms in Georgia. Please do not hesitate to let us know if you have any questions or concerns. Continue reading to learn more about the bills we are tracking.
Ending State-Sanctioned Violence
- HB 233 (Sponsor: Rep. James Beverly) – Prohibits no-knock search warrants. (Status: Assigned to Judiciary Non-Civil Committee)
- HB 313 (Sponsor: Rep. Sam Park) – Creates a citizen review council to receive complaints regarding state law enforcement agencies. (Status: Assigned to House Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee)
- HB 69 (Sponsor: Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick) – Waives immunity for law enforcement officers. (Status: Assigned to House Judiciary Committee)
Ending Mass Incarceration
- HB 272 (Sponsor: Rep. Mandi Ballinger) – Raises the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to include 17-year-olds. (Status: Assigned to the House Juvenile Justice Committee)
- HB 190 (Sponsor: Rep. Scott Holcomb) – Prohibits use of private prisons. (Status: Assigned to House Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee)
- SB 77 (Sponsor: Sen. Harold Jones) – Reduces the maximum penalty for possession of no more than 2 ounces of marijuana. (Status: Assigned to Senate Judiciary Committee)
- HB 335 (Sponsor: Rep. Gregg Kennard) – Caps felony probation at 2 years. (Status: Assigned to House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee)
- SB 105 (Sponsor: Sen. Brian Strickland) – Expands opportunities for early probation termination. (Assigned to Senate Judiciary Committee)
- HB 101/HR 28 (Sponsor: Rep. Josh McLaurin) – Ends felony disenfranchisement. (Status: Assigned to House Special Committee on Election Integrity)
- SB 79 (Sponsor: Sen. Harold Jones) – Enumerates offenses constituting a felony involving moral turpitude. (Status: Assigned to Senate Judiciary Committee)
- HB 330 (Sponsor: Rep. Bill Werkheiser) – Allows DDS to waive driver’s license reinstatement fees (Status: Assigned to House Motor Vehicles Committee)
Punitive Responses to Street Racing
- SB 10 (Sponsor: Sen. Emanuel Jones) – Creates new offenses for people who promote or are knowingly present at street racing events; enhances the offenses of drag racing and laying drags to the level of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature and imposes a fine of $1,000 for the first conviction, $2,000 for the second, and $5,000 for the third; imposes a 6-point penalty toward license suspension for a first conviction laying drags, 8 points for the second, and 12 points for the third; requires any high-performance vehicle used for laying drag or drag racing to be considered contraband upon the operator’s second arrest and subject to civil asset forfeiture; requires special registration and the use of a special license plate for high-performance vehicles (vehicles that are not a common carrier or commercial motor vehicle and that hold a rating of 650+ horsepower or have been converted to hold higher horsepower than the manufacturer’s specifications) and punishes a violation of these policies as a misdemeanor; provides that any person operating an off-road vehicle on any highway, public or private driveway, airport runway or parking lot shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. (Status: Hearing only in Senate Judiciary Subcommittee A on Feb. 10)
Expanding Mass Incarceration
- HB 288 (Sponsor: Rep. Dave Belton) – Requires individuals to serve a minimum period of incarceration before being eligible for parole consideration. (Status: Hearing only in House Judiciary Non-Civil Reeves Subcommittee on Feb. 8)
Exacerbating Reentry Barriers
- HB 194 (Sponsor: Rep. Steven Sainz) – Provides for lifetime probation for people convicted of a sex offense. (Status: Assigned to House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee)
New Bills SCHR Is Monitoring:
- SB 115 (Sponsor: Sen. Randy Robertson) – Provides for an instructional course or presentation educating drivers and the public on the best practices to implement when interacting with law enforcement officers. (Status: Assigned to Senate Public Safety Committee)
- SB 121 – (Sponsor: Sen. Gloria Butler) – Expands the offense of perjury to include false statements made in police reports by law enforcement officers. (Status: Assigned to Senate Judiciary Committee)
- SB 124 – (Sponsor: Sen. Gloria Butler) – Provides a duty to intervene for law enforcement officers. (Status: Assigned to Senate Public Safety Committee)
- SB 125 – (Sponsor: Sen. Gloria Butler) – Prohibits officers using kinetic impact projectiles in the use of force. (Status: Assigned to Senate Public Safety Committee)
- SB 126 – (Sponsor: Sen. Gloria Butler) – Removes certain immunities for the actions of certain law enforcement officers. (Status: Assigned to Senate Judiciary Committee)
- SB 127 – (Sponsor: Sen. Gloria Butler) – Establishes basic and in-service training courses on post-traumatic stress disorder. (Status: Assigned to Senate Public Safety Committee)
- SB 128 – (Sponsor: Sen. Nikki Merritt) – Creates the Georgia Law Enforcement Citizen Review Council. (Status: Assigned to Senate Public Safety Committee)
- SB 129 – (Sponsor: Sen. Harold Jones) – Requires that certain peace officers be equipped with audio and video recording devices for recording all activities while on duty. (Status: Assigned to Senate Public Safety Committee)
- SB 130 – (Sponsor: Sen. Sally Harrell) – Prohibits the possession of certain property from the United States Department of Defense by certain local law enforcement agencies. (Status: Assigned to Senate Public Safety Committee)
- SB 131 – (Sponsor: Sen. Harold Jones) – Provides for the appointment of a prosecuting attorney when the person accused is a law enforcement officer charged with a felony or an act of family violence. (Status: Assigned to Senate Judiciary Committee)
- SB 132 – (Sponsor: Sen. Gloria Butler) – Prohibits police use-of-force maneuvers that restrict blood or oxygen flow to the brain. (Status: Assigned to Senate Public Safety Committee)
- SB 133 – (Sponsor: Sen. Gail Davenport) – Revises provisions regarding the issuances of search warrants and the use of force in executing a search warrant. (Status: Assigned to Senate Judiciary Committee)
- SB 134 – (Sponsor: Sen. Sheikh Rahman) – Requires policies that prohibit law enforcement officers from using race or ethnicity in determining whether to stop a motor vehicle. (Status: Assigned to Senate Public Safety Committee)
- SB 135 – (Sponsor: Sen. Gloria Butler) – Repeals the provision regarding no duty to retreat prior to the use of force. (Status: Assigned to Senate Judiciary Committee)
- SB 138 – (Sponsor: Sen. Gail Davenport) – Provides a standard by which state, county, and local law enforcement agencies engage in vehicular pursuits. (Status: Assigned to Senate Public Safety Committee)
- HB 327 (Sponsor: Rep. Martin Momtahan) – Creates penalties for organized retail crime. (Status: Assigned to House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee)
- HB 411 (Sponsor: Rep. Joseph Gullett) – Creates the Prosecuting Attorneys Oversight Commission. (Status: Assigned to House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee)
- SB 117 (Sponsor: Sen. Butch Miller) – Revises the offense of improper sexual contact by employee or agent in the first degree and creates the offense of improper sexual contact by person in a position of trust. (Status: Assigned to Senate Judiciary Committee)
Criminalization of Poverty
- SB 139 – (Sponsor: Sen. Gloria Butler) – Authorizes the seizure of property subject to civil forfeiture only upon a criminal conviction. (Status: Assigned to Senate Judiciary Committee)
- HB 377 (Sponsor: Rep. Kim Schofield) – Georgia Women’s Care (Child Care Alternatives, Resources, and Education) Act – Requires every woman who is arrested and not released within 72 hours to submit to pregnancy testing; allows judges to determine if a pregnant woman sentenced to incarceration is eligible to have such sentence deferred until 12 weeks after giving birth, unless the woman declines the deferral; requires a woman whose sentence has been deferred to contact the Department of Community Supervision biweekly to confirm that she is receiving perinatal healthcare; requires that a woman’s deferred prison sentence begin immediately if her pregnancy is terminated for any reason or if she does not check in with DCS as required; requires penal institutions to report relevant data to the Department of Public Health. (Status: Assigned to the House Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee)
- HB 347 (Sponsor: Rep. Joseph Gullett) – Revises the petition for release from registration requirements in the State Sex Offender Registry. (Status: Assigned to House Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee)
- HB 404 – (Sponsor: Rep. Gregg Kennard) – Provides for the automatic restriction of a person’s criminal record upon arrest and that such information shall be made publicly available only upon the issuance of an indictment, accusation, or other charging instrument. (Status: Assigned to House Ju