Gov. Nathan Deal touted his criminal justice initiatives Thursday with President Donald Trump and a group of mostly Republican leaders, highlighting a decrease in incarceration rates and new education programs for inmates.
The governor used the meeting at a New Jersey golf club to promote an eight-year overhaul that kept more nonviolent offenders out of prison, set up a system of accountability courts and poured more resources into rehabilitating prisoners.
A final part, which he signed into law this year, gives judges new flexibility to forgo cash bail for poor defendants. He’s said he hoped the winner of the November vote to succeed him would consider another change: reducing or eliminating some mandatory minimum sentences.
“We’ve been very successful and pleased to share any information we can,” said Deal, who talked of a 10 percent decrease in violent crime and 20 percent overall decrease since he took office in 2011.
Trump’s meeting aimed to boost the pressure on Congress to adopt legislation that would provide $50 million in funding for drug treatment and job retraining programs. The White House invited officials it said represent states that adopted changes mirroring the president’s policies.
“We want to treat Americans fairly,” said Trump, who said his priority was to help former inmates land jobs.
The meeting came the same day U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was in Macon to tout a tough-on-crime approach that is at odds with Deal’s philosophy. He’s aimed to increase the use of the federal death penalty and pushed for more aggressive prosecution of drug suspects.
The two candidates seeking to succeed Deal, Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp, support the governor’s criminal justice policy but have sharply contrasting views of what to do next.
Abrams aims to eliminate the cash bail system, end capital punishment, expand the medical marijuana program and decriminalize some drug offenses. Kemp calls for a “public safety reform” that involves tougher anti-gang enforcement and new efforts to deport convicted criminals in the country illegally.