One part of Nathan Deal’s legacy that’s already written

AJC Photo / Bob Andres

AJC Photo / Bob Andres

AJC Photo / Bob Andres

ATHENS — Second terms are supposed to be for legacies: actions and bills with lasting impact which can only be accomplished by an executive who won’t face the voters again.

There’s an oxymoron to unpack there, but that’s for another column. This one is about a legacy achievement that began in a first term but has gained far too little notice.

Nathan Deal’s inaugural address in January 2011 contained a short surprise. Before he got to education, transportation, water or health care — perennial challenges for administrations in Georgia — the new governor delved briefly into a subject most of us prefer to ignore: our criminal justice system.

A decades-long decline in violent crime has weakened it as a political issue, to the point politicians can talk about improving the lot of the convicts themselves.

We’re not talking about violent and/or sexual offenders. Those are the dangerous people whom, Deal told legislators Tuesday during their biennial conference at the University of Georgia, “most of us believe a prison system is for.”

Rather, Deal’s initial reforms focused on non-violent drug offenders. These are people better served by supervision under an “accountability court” than by prison stints that, too often, introduce relatively minor offenders to a life of real crime.

The fiscal attractiveness of such reforms is significant: savings of $25 million in the first two years, Deal said. The human and economic components, though, could reach even farther.

“If you are no better equipped when you leave prison than when you entered prison, in terms of being able to adjust and be a meaningful participant in society, then we should never expect very good results,” Deal said.

An examination of Georgia’s prison population, Deal said, found seven in 10 inmates had less than a high school education. “If you don’t have that basic level of education, and you are patted on the back and put out the door,” he said, “your chance of success in staying out in civilized society without getting in trouble again is not a very good percentage.”

With that theory — and statistics indicating $1 spent on basic education for inmates will yield $5 worth of reduced recidivism and crimes — in mind, Deal hired schools superintendent Buster Evans away from Forsyth County this summer and tasked him with boosting prison education programs.

From July to October, Deal reported Tuesday, the number of Georgia’s 60,000 inmates involved in basic education programs rose to 4,500 from just 700. An additional 2,390 were enrolled in vocational training. Those are thousands of potentially reclaimed lives.

More are coming. Beginning next year, the prison system will work with one charter school in the Northeast Georgia mountains and another near Athens to offer high-school courses to prisoners. Already, Deal said, one female inmate who had been just one course short of a high school diploma is nearly ready to graduate.

Deal touted these programs as an example of “abstract legislative language … (that) when it is implemented, makes a difference in the lives of these individuals.”

He’s right to be proud of it. We’d be right to notice.

Reader Comments 0

54 comments
Trefusis
Trefusis

Oh please, Mr. Wingfield, do not don Governor Deal's short pants in mastery of macro-policy!  He is merely a political reptile, whereas you are journalist.  We count on you to be more analytical than he.  More truthful, too.  You are making him out to be discerning.  He's not.  It would be lovely for us to have a wonk for Governor but right now we do have such a person.  If you keep talking this way, eventually the Democrats will cough up some phlegm of their own who answers to your description, but meanwhile we have Nathan Deal, who needs no tout such as you.  You really are not doing the Party a service by pretending that such a power-maniac is also sagacious. 

Trefusis
Trefusis

But Kyle!  All this, that Gov. Deal supposedly represents as his accomplishment you and I know cannot really be accomplished by a governor but only either (a) at best spurred; (b) at most acquiesced or, (c) stopped.  So perhaps you are running Nathan Deal once again for the Georgia Senate, not the Governorship. Second, he's a sick puppy if he truly believes that he, as Governor, "created jobs" or improved student test scores.  I'm on your team.  Get real.


Say truly to the readers what a governor can and cannot do.  I've voted for this blowhard twice, but don't tell me he has made the skies to give us rainwater.  That's ridiculous.  The next smart education "reform" Nathan Deal finds shall be his first. 


You seem to think that the measure of a politician is his voting record on issues, binary, that have to be decided by legislative counsel when they are forced to tag bills, discreet pieces of legislation, as principally concerning, say, transportation, or education, or whatnot.  Readers count upon you for a fuller picture or else I swear I myself want to become Georgia's Governor because it must be the sweetest, laziest, happiest downriver job there ever was. 


Especially if you're Nathan Deal.  I've no idea why my Party landed upon him, except he looks the part, and after all we were losing in DC Saxby Chambliss, the Silver Fox of the Susquehanna, known for nothing but his handsome hairdo.


THAT's the reality of Nathan Deal, Kyle.  Let's get ready before the Democrats do, down the line.  

Robtown
Robtown

It only makes sense that the ethically challenged man would be interested in reducing or removing jail time for non violent offenses... He's only one bribe or one financial fraud away from being charged himself...

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

Decriminalizing marijuana possession and use would further decrease the prison population. Not likely in GA anytime soon (except possibly medical cannabis) but we'll eventually get there.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Looks like the GOP is ready to shutdown the Government again.


Lets see how this plays out. 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

By the way, putting someone in a supermax, confined to total solitary confinement with no mental stimuli whatsoever is the very definition of torture.


Tell that to someone denied sleep for 10 days. 

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

By the way, putting someone in a supermax, confined to total solitary confinement with no mental stimuli whatsoever is the very definition of torture. It's thousands of times worse than waterboarding, by far. But it's the democrats that are the ones piling it on. So we don't hear nothing about it.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@IReportYouWhine By the way, putting someone in a supermax, confined to total solitary confinement with no mental stimuli whatsoever is the very definition of torture. It's thousands of times worse than waterboarding, by far.


No its not...Not even close


Its amazing the lengths and spinning people are doing to defend the indefensible position on torturing detainees. 


Frankly its a bit embarrassing that Kyle has not even addressed the issue.

MichaelHannigan
MichaelHannigan

@HeadleyLamar @IReportYouWhine 

Having the choice of being put into super solitary confinement vs-à-vis having my head chopped off, I think I most likely would jump at the chance to have solitary confinement; after all, tis' better to live to see another day as the saying goes.

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

@Roadkill At what age does it change from "Young people" to those who should be reprimanded? 


I'm fine with a reprimand, it's the thirty years in a supermax for doob that concerns me.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

While I agree with Jefferson and lvg, I must admit my first thought was, "If a Democratic governor had done this, the cons would be screaming about "wasting money" and "these people HAD their chance for an education on the taxpayers!"  


Am I right?  H3ll, yeah!

MichaelHannigan
MichaelHannigan

@Wascatlady 

You're a demokrat, aren't you?  You, of course, know the prime number one mantra of those in the Socialist Demokratic Party, to wit:

"the Liberals (aka, socialists, demokrats, other unprintable names, etc.) are ALWAYS RIGHT!  NEVER WRONG! GET IT? Only the conservatives (aka Republicans, clear thinkers, etc.) are WRONG! ALWAYS WRONG! GET IT?


I guess that tells me you are right.  But, we don't have a Demokrat Governor and if we were libruls, we WOULD be screaming!  However, neither is correct, so this dialog is moot.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

I s'pose it's better than "Go Fish!" 


lvg
lvg

Probably somewhere in all this progressive reform by our esteemed governor is a big fat private conttract to some compqany  that made a big fat campaign contribution. Kinda like Dick Cheney and CIA contrtacting out  for torture of terror suspects to total incompetents.

n8diggidy
n8diggidy

@lvg That is a problem with Democrats also, see 800 plus billion stimulus expenditures.

MichaelHannigan
MichaelHannigan

@lvg 

NO!  Someone benefiting 'cause they received a big ($$$) contribution from a constituent!  Can't be. Never heard of such outrageous behavior!  Oh, if we only had a Democrat in the governor's office that sorta thing would never happen.  Now, let's discuss another topic you hold dear: The Tooth Fairy.  How would you like for me to begin that discussion, sport?

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

It is so cool that in GA you can quit a higher paying job, be broke on paper, become Gov, and 8 years later emerge as a millionaire. Not to mentions you can sell property to tax cheats and nobody questions your character.  Now that's a legacy.

Robtown
Robtown

That financial plan is only available to republicans.

MichaelHannigan
MichaelHannigan

@Jefferson1776 

I have it on good information, Deal followed the strict protocols of the Clintons who left the White House after 8 years and were "broke."  Don't believe it? Ask Hillary.

And, who ever said - in print - that Deal was of the highest esteem and regard, anyway?  the people of Georgia had two choices for Governor when Deal ran and they picked the evil of two lessers. Can you imagine what shape this State would be in if his opponent had won?

n8diggidy
n8diggidy

Reducing the punitive power of the State, I can dig that!  I wish both political parties would look for more opportunities to do that.  

On a related note, the DUI/Drug Courts pooping up are doing great work.  I recommend going to a county commission meeting to hear the stories of those it has helped .

MichaelHannigan
MichaelHannigan

@n8diggidy 

uh...might you have meant to say "popping" up?

But, I agree.\ with the balance of your post.

RantNRave
RantNRave

"Now about that unemployment rate....."


HEADLEYLAMAR


THAT'S A CRITICAL ISSUE.


WHERE ARE THE JOBS NATHAN DEAL?

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

I applaud Deal for these reforms. They are welcome indeed.


As you mention Kyle violent crime is going down down down. People glued to the 24 hr News channels would probably never believe that. But its true.


Prisons should be for violent offenders etc. Not for a 25 year old kid who got busted with a few grams of pot.


Anything that reduces the recidivism rate benefits us all. 


Now about that unemployment rate.....

MichaelHannigan
MichaelHannigan

@HeadleyLamar 


As you mention Kyle violent crime is going down down down. People glued to the 24 hr News channels would probably never believe that. But its true.


What?I had no idea PMSNBC was 24-hour!Someone said thay thought CNN was and that Al-Jazeera Network may be 24-hour, but… Give us some more of those you watch.I’d at least like to turn them on just to say I had seen them. And, you say, that what they are seeing on the 24-hour “news” channels is true?Good golly!


Now about that unemployment rate.....


Yeah, L’il Jason would have changed his clothes in the nearest phone booth and emerged as the jobs-saving savior.All those plants, offices and business closing down…he would have stepped in and stopped that, by golly.You’d never believe that the unemployment rate (though still too high) is going down for the third straight month.Someone obviously told the business community that L’il Jason had become Governor…


Finn-McCool
Finn-McCool

"hey, inmates, you can either spend your entire day in your cell or you can break your day up a bit and attend these classes. Which do you want to do?"


Wow, Deal's a genius, isn't he?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Finn-McCool Well, no governor -- including 130 years worth of Democrats -- ever did it before him.

GMFA
GMFA

@Kyle_Wingfield @Finn-McCool I think Gov. Deal got much of this from his son who is a Judge who is very proactive on these type issues. It is a good idea.

straker
straker

Every dollar saved by reducing our prison systems cost is another dollar in tax cuts for Republican corporate sponsors.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

or attend educational programs to provide them the opportunity for better employment?


Road, I like that idea, learn your way out of prison early.  Someone should come up with a program to shorten your sentence by earning degrees. 

MichaelHannigan
MichaelHannigan

@RafeHollister 

Someone needs to look at the length of sentencing.  Though I am opposed to marijuana, I think if a person wants to shorten his life, so be it, but tax it the way alcohol and other drugs are taxed.  Long prison sentences for smoking a joint are ridiculous.  Selling pot, well that's another story but all drug-related sentences should be examined.  Some are too high IMO.

Shortening a sentence by earning degrees? That might not be a bad idea.  Kill two birds with one store; make a productive contributor to society (and let him or her pay for it) and saving the state the extra money for keeping them locked up for longer times.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

It is somewhat of an over reach, in my mind, to say that governors have legacies.  The Federal Government is so over the top in control of our everyday functions., that it seems a stretch to think that a Governor is left with much of anything other than mundane things to build a legacy on.  


When I think back to prior governors I come up with Perdue-Go Fish, Barnes-a blue placemat for a flag, Joe Frank Harris, QBE=pretty much a failure,  and I can't remember much else of significance any farther back.   Maybe Maddox for bringing black folks into government; now that could be called a legacy.  That is not what he is remembered for, however.


I think Deal is moving in the right direction here and I support his efforts, but is doing the right thing the same as building a legacy?  Not sure.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@RafeHollister See? There are things you remember them for. Not always good things, but no one said a legacy had to be good.

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@Kyle_Wingfield @RafeHollister Well, the 5% or so of us that are political junkies  or history buffs remember things, but those folks who can't pick the VP out of a line-up, not so much.  


So can you have a "legacy", if 90% of the folks don't even know who you are, five years after you finish your term?  How many folks in Georgia could name four former governors, if you spot them Carter?

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield @RafeHollister Maybe Maddox for bringing black folks into government; now that could be called a legacy.


I don't think of that when I think of Lester Maddox.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lester_Maddox


Mostly customers, with only a few employees, voluntarily removed the twelve Pickrick Drumsticks [a euphemism for ax handles] from the nail kegs on each side of the large dining room fireplace. They had been forewarned by the arrival of Atlanta's news media of an impending attempted invasion of our restaurant by the racial demonstrators and once the demonstrators and agitators arrived, the customers and employees pulled the drumsticks [ax handles] from the kegs and went outside to defend against the threatened invasion.[4]

The "invasion" Maddox referred to above were three black Georgia Tech students who had asked to be seated

MichaelHannigan
MichaelHannigan

@Kyle_Wingfield @RafeHollister 

Bring me up to date here guys...since when has it become a thing for a governor to leave behind a "legacy?"  Give me good government, better my life, keep me safe, don't over-tax me, etc. and I'll pass on "legacies."

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

Young people do stupid things, it's just human nature. That includes drugs, shoplifting, drunkenness, voting for the democrats. To make hardened criminals out of them for the most minor mistakes is counterproductive to society and shouldn't have to be thought about. The war on drugs was probably one of the dumbest ideas the repugs ever came up with.

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

@IReportYouWhine ALL people do dumb things. Saw the report last night about people driving into buildings....through the walls and hurting others. At what age does it change from "Young people" to those who should be reprimanded? Should it be based on the degree of affect to others? Paying restitution for damages and apologies?

MichaelHannigan
MichaelHannigan

@RoadScholar @IReportYouWhine 

Should it be based on the degree of affect to others? Paying restitution for damages and apologies?

Don't know what you folks had to endure to become productive citizens, but I can tell of three things that turned a young punk kid, who began getting into trouble at an early age had to endure (beginning at the ripe old age of eleven): a 1-1/4" belt (starting at about 8); a military school and the U.S.M.C. Those did the trick.

From that I never touched my boys as far as the belt, but they did go to military school for discipline and an education and all three are still in the U.S.M.C. Worked and works now for me so we can produce good citizens if we become involved in our children by showing them that you want them to succeed, you care deeply for them and, most of all, show them that you love them.

(BTW, I totally quit doing stupid things about 13 seconds after stepping off the bus at Parris Island.)