By Rena Abdusalam Free Mp3 Download
SAVANNAH, GA — Republican leaders in Georgia recently enacted legislation designed to stymie efforts to reform the criminal justice system, Shalena Cook Jones, the Chatham County District Attorney in Georgia’s Eastern Judicial Circuit, said in an op-ed in the Savannah Morning News this week .
“Over the past few days, several people have contacted me and asked my thoughts on the governor’s recent visit to Savannah to enact Georgia SB 92 and establish a prosecutor’s qualification committee,” Jones wrote.
Jones added, “This bill, better known by its original name ‘The Prosecutorial Oversight Bill,’ is intended to keep reform-minded prosecutors in line by limiting their prosecutorial discretion.”
Jones said the legislation will be “another tool that certain politicians use to silence voters and keep them out of decisions.” [the] They are destroying the criminal justice system and undermining our democracy. Since 1789, Georgia prosecutors have had great latitude in deciding who to charge, how to charge them, and how long their sentences should last.
Jones wrote in the op-ed that because the district attorney is an elected office, voters have decided whether a prosecutor “does his job properly.”
“For centuries, more than 97 percent of the prosecutors in this country have been white men, while more than 90 percent of those incarcerated in jails and jails have been people of color,” Jones noted, adding, “Oddly enough, nobody found that odd, although studies always did.” have again shown that institutional racism, systemic bias and economic inequalities are the root causes of mass incarceration.”
She then accused Georgia of having the highest incarceration rate in the country in years, and Chatham County, where Jones works, has the highest recidivism rate of any of the state’s 159 counties.
“Ahead of the 2020 election and despite these miserable statistics, no one batted an eyelid. Prosecutors were free to administer their districts however they wanted,” she explained.
“But now, with reform-minded prosecutors, who also happen to be people of color, running the state’s largest and most profitable regions, Georgia lawmakers have suddenly decided that a qualifications committee is necessary,” Jones wrote.
Jones called the situation absurd.
“Nonetheless, proponents of this bill believe these so-called ‘progressive’ prosecutors are dangerous ‘rogues’ and ‘radicals’ to be feared, rather than the acknowledged, seasoned professionals they are,” she said.
Jones added, “Mind you, professionals are feared because they offer smarter, more effective strategies to address the flaws in the American criminal justice system and threaten the existing power structure.”
“SB 92 ignores public opinion on reform and silences voters’ voices. Public opinion polls confirm that attitudes towards criminal justice in Georgia and across the country have changed,” she said.
She then revealed information about a recent bipartisan poll conducted in the run-up to the 2022 election, which found that “eight out of 10 Americans support criminal justice reform, including 74 percent Republicans, 80 percent independents and 85 percent Democrats.”
Jones said two-thirds of voters think the criminal justice system needs a lot of maintenance and reform. In Georgia, 86 percent of small business owners agreed that reforms like the Clean Slate policies would attract more applicants and boost labor recruitment, Jones added.
“The governor and his party in the state legislature are completely at odds with Georgians and most Americans who want innovation in the criminal justice system,” Jones claimed. “Laws like SB 92 are anti-democratic and lead to a nationally coordinated effort to nullify the will of the electorate.”
“What we are witnessing in this law is not an accident, but another example of the partisan politics that is happening in this country,” Jones said.
“In Missouri, lawmakers forced the resignation of District Attorney Kim Gardner by threatening to change her office to an appointed rather than an elected position. “Iowa just passed a law that gives the Attorney General wide powers to prosecute, bypassing Kimberly Graham, the newly elected District Attorney for Polk County,” she said.
She added that Florida Attorney Aramis Ayala was fired from her office for murder cases after he expressed her opinion on the death penalty, and another Florida Attorney, Andrew Warren, was impeached by Gov. Ron DeSantis because he “simply …” [shared] his prosecutorial priorities.”
“Good laws target problems, not people. “The more effective way to maintain public safety and prevent mass shootings is to enact smart gun laws that make it difficult for certain people to obtain guns — another public safety approach Georgians support,” Jones wrote in her comment.
Jones argued that a better way to break the cycle of incarceration would be to “invest in the life, education, and upbringing of the children brought into this world by law by pro-life politicians.”
“The way to reduce recidivism is to set up reintegration programs that ease the transition back into society for returning citizens. I welcome and look forward to future discussions with our Head of State and local leaders to explore these ideas because together we are “better” in the pursuit of justice for all, Jones said.