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Tuesday, April 30, 2013 - 12:10pm

More Help For Criminal Offenders

Gov. Nathan Deal isn’t done overhauling the state’s criminal justice system. He told the Atlanta Press Club Tuesday that next he’ll tackle the task of helping inmates find jobs after prison.

Deal is asking a criminal justice panel he formed two years ago to explore ways to ease inmates’ re-entry into society.

He says he knows how hard it is to start anew after serving time. Those workers at the Governor’s Mansion who serve meals? Choking back tears, Deal said:

“They’re prisoners, most of them there for the most serious of crimes. I’ve had a chance to help some of them as they’ve left…find a job," he said. "Invariably the employer who’s willing to take that chance comes up to me and says, ‘If you’ve got some more like that, how about sending them my way?’”

He added, "They work hard. They appreciate the opportunity for a chance in life again."

This will be Deal’s third major prison-related initiative. He has already made sentencing changes for adult and juvenile offenders.

Deal says religious groups who help inmates may help with the effort. He says it’s unclear what form the initiative will take.

During his talk and a question-and-answer period afterwards, the Governor touched on a wide range of issues. He said state lawmakers will continue to consider changes to the state’s gun laws while in recess.

During the 2013 session, legislators debated but didn’t pass a bill that would have loosened restrictions on where you can carry a gun. Under the bill, licensed gun owners would have been able to take a gun to church.

He said churches need to be able to opt into the law.

“As I told them, I don’t think the First Baptist Church of Gainesville ought to have to post a sign outside its church, saying, ‘Guns Not Allowed.’

Instead, churches that allow them should be able to post a sign saying as much.

He also said he's eager to see Congress produce a bill reforming the immigration system. He said the lack of action in Washington forced Georgia and other states to pass their own immigration enforcement acts.
Deal has until May 7 to sign or veto measures passed during the legislative session.