Surrounded by his son, Judge Jason Deal, bill sponsor Rep. Jay Neal (R-LaFayette) and other legislators and jurists, Gov. Nathan Deal today signed HB 265, a bill to create the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians during a bill ceremony in the courtroom where Judge Deal presides over Hall County's drug court.
Deal stressed the importance the council will place on saving taxpayer dollars while finding better ways to rehabilitate those who have lost their way.
"While we foresee this effort uncovering strategies that will save taxpayer dollars, we are first and foremost attacking the human costs of a society with too much crime, too many behind bars, too many children growing up without a much needed parent and too many wasted lives.
"We must do a better job rehabilitating lives. We know that drug addiction is the root cause of much crime. Our entire society benefits if we can turn these tax burdens into taxpayers. I look forward to working with this council to make Georgia corrections work better for Georgians."
At the bill signing, Judge Deal introduced drug court graduate Mike Wilcoxson, who testified to the life-changing possibilities of rehabilitation.
"One thing drug court has done for me is give me a sense of purpose in my life, to set goals for myself, to be accountable for my actions, and to break the cycle of addiction I had," Wilcoxson said. "Drug abuse has always been a struggle in my family; I come from a line of alcoholics. Being able to break that cycle has changed my life and my family."
The council will report its findings no later than Jan. 9, 2012, and will consist of 13 members tapped by Deal, Speaker David Ralston, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Chief Justice Carol Hunstein -- all of which played a vital role in crafting the legislation. Deal first unveiled Neal's legislation in February during a news conference in the state Capitol.
"I'm proud to stand alongside Judge Deal, Rep. Neal and many others to sign HB 265," Deal said. "I also want to thank Lt. Gov. Cagle, Speaker Ralston and other legislative leaders for their hard work on this legislation. I know they too share my belief that this council will make a real difference in Georgia's corrections efforts -- and a real difference in the lives of addicts, their families and their communities."