published Sunday, April 13th, 2014

Gov. Deal signs prisoner re-entry bill into law

GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill into law on Sunday that is aimed at reducing recidivism among ex-offenders and helping them successfully re-enter society.

Deal signed Senate Bill 365 at Antioch Baptist Church in Gainesville and said the legislation is meant to build on regulations Georgia lawmakers passed in 2012 and 2013.

The new law requires the Georgia Board of Corrections to create a certificate program to ensure that ex-offenders are ready to re-enter society and find jobs. The program will require inmates to complete treatment plans and vocational training while in prison, and adhere to the plans once they're released or put on probation and parole.

"The incentives and re-entry programs included in this legislation are cost-effective strategies that will increase the number of former offenders returning to the workforce and supporting their families," Deal said in a statement.

The bill also says employers should exercise due care when hiring participants in the prisoner re-entry certificate program, and provides employers a certain level of protection from negligent hiring liability.

The law also lets judges avoid automatically suspending the driver's license of someone convicted of minor drug offenses if the violation didn't involve the operation of a vehicle. That portion of the law is meant to help nonviolent offenders continue traveling for work, Deal said, adding that rehabilitating nonviolent offenders after stripping them of the ability to independently travel for work was counterproductive.

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