2018 Governor’s Race

Below is a comparison of what the two major party candidates for governor have stated about reforming Georgia’s criminal justice system, ending mass incarceration, and eliminating racial disparities. 


Stacey Abrams

Stacey Abrams (D)

 
Brian Kemp

Brian Kemp (R)


+ Reforming the Criminal Justice System

Position of ACLU of GA:   Support   Oppose

ABRAMS

“Do we want to be the Georgia that goes backward to mass incarceration? Or go forward and eliminate the stories of Georgia leaving behind its best and brightest?” [Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 13, 2018]

“In the last decade, a bipartisan consensus has emerged that our criminal justice system must head in a new direction. Republicans and Democrats realized Georgia could not continue to afford to be a leader in mass incarceration, which costs too much money and sets people up for permanent failure. Georgia has started on a path to a smarter approach — one the next governor must continue. We cannot return to the tired, dated patterns of ‘punish and penalize.’ [Source: Stacey Abrams for Governor, accessed 8/18/18]

“I am committed to working collaboratively with the courts, state agencies, law enforcement, community-based partners, and the legislature to continue and expand criminal justice reform.” [Source: Stacey Abrams for Governor, accessed 8/18/18]

“We spend too much money locking people up without proof this makes our communities safe. Instead of safety, we get higher unemployment and less community stability. In addition to working to end money bail for nonviolent offenses, I will focus on decriminalizing certain traffic offenses, limiting the forfeiture of driver licenses for failure to pay fines, increasing fairness in the assessment and imposition of criminal debt, adequately funding indigent defense, improving access to community-based mental health and substance abuse programs and other solutions to ensure that incomes do not determine outcomes in the justice system.” [Source: Stacey Abrams for Governor, accessed 8/18/18]

KEMP

 “Gov. Deal’s done criminal justice reform, we’re going to do public safety reform. Georgia has become a distribution hub for the Mexican drug cartel. We’ve got a gang problem.” [Source: Augusta Chronicle, 4/9/18]

 “I think people are ready for a politically incorrect person to say and talk about the issues we have before us — track and deport, stop and dismantle gangs, public safety reform, building off what Gov. Deal has done with criminal justice reform to keep our families safe,” Kemp said. Ledger-Enquirer (July 5th, 2018)

 “To put more criminals behind bars — and curb the growth of gang membership — Kemp will empower the Attorney General’s office to prosecute gang cases with jurisdictions that span multiple counties. With a special unit at the state level, our state’s top lawyer will have tools and funding to keep our families safe.” [Source: Kemp for Governor, accessed 8/18/18]

+ Ending Cash Bail

Position of ACLU of GA:   Support   Oppose

A person’s ability to leave jail and return home to fight the charges against them often depends on how much money they have in their pocket. Smart Justice Georgia is fighting in the courts and in the state legislature to end the unjust cash bail system, which often profits private bail insurance companies.

ABRAMS

“Right now, the majority of Georgians incarcerated in local jails have not been convicted of a crime. Many are simply too poor to pay their bail. The Constitution says that punishment is for the convicted, not the merely arrested, and Georgia must be on the right side of the law.” [Source: Stacey Abrams for Governor, accessed 8/18/18]

KEMP

No statement available.

+ Decriminalizing Marijuana

Position of ACLU of GA:   Support   Oppose

The enforcement of marijuana laws generates some of the justice system’s starkest racial disparities. Smart Justice Georgia is fighting to implement, protect and expand medical marijuana access and availability in the State of Georgia, as well as decriminalization, helping thousands of people obtain the medicine they need and keeping people who pose no danger to public safety out of the criminal justice system. We also encourage Georgia to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana, as other states are already doing.

ABRAMS

“I support decriminalization of marijuana, legalization of medical marijuana and local cultivation of medical marijuana. Once we have established a strong substance abuse network, I am open to legalization for recreational use.” [ Source: Abrams, Stacey (@staceyabrams). 21 February 2018, 5:26 AM. Tweet.]

KEMP

“I’m certainly not in the camp of being pro-recreational marijuana. I do think though, from a medicinal standpoint, I am very open-minded about that. I am very supportive of what our legislature has done in the past, and we’ll continue to keep taking a look at that.” Kemp for Governor interview (January 16th, 2018)

“Over time, society has cultivated an unfair and, in my opinion, inaccurate stigma attached to addiction, despite the fact it is a disease, and we must treat diseases in order to see healing.’ He called on them to speak out and contribute to a greater understanding of the complexity and seriousness of the fight against addiction. The drug problem has no easy solutions, he said. ‘The walls of a jail cell make addiction treatment, meaningful personal growth and progress toward recovery next to impossible. Prison is not the place you were meant to be,’ Kemp told the graduates.” [Henry Daily Herald, 12/15/17]

+ Reforming Sentencing and Re-entry Policies

Position of ACLU of GA:   Support   Oppose

Decades of “tough on crime” policies have left this country with criminal justice systems riddled with mandatory minimum sentences, “three strikes”-style enhancements, and restrictions on release that keep people in prison for decades, if not the rest of their lives. Georgia’s harsh sentencing laws impose even longer prison sentences for people with prior convictions. Ultimately, sentencing disparities and selective enforcement of drug laws mean that there are more black people under the control of prison and correction departments today than were enslaved by this country. We are fighting to reform harsh sentencing laws that create cyclical patterns of incarceration through advocating for alternatives to incarceration, reducing time served, and reforming minimum and mandatory sentencing requirements.

ABRAMS

“Georgia has made progress in alternative-sentencing, but can do more to ensure individuals receive the help they need and avoid records that will impact their ability to get jobs and housing for a lifetime.” [Stacey Abrams for Governor, accessed 8/18/18]

Accountability courts in some urban and rural Georgia counties have evidence-based track records of success, and these courts should become the norm. These courts are a cost-effective criminal justice strategy. Incentivizing accountability courts and diversion programs will ensure that all of Georgia benefits from the broad use and proven success of these courts and programs. No matter where you live in Georgia, we will work to ensure equality in the administration of justice. [Stacey Abrams for Governor, accessed 8/18/18]

“When we as a community decide that you should be held accountable for your crimes, we also have to decide that you can come back and be part of our community when you get out.” [Source: The Daily Show Interview, August 6, 2018]

KEMP

“I’ve been supportive of the accountability courts that Governor Deal has been pushing in criminal justice reform — I think there’s a need for that, I’d be supportive of that in the future.” [Marietta Daily Journal, 5/4/18]

+ Stopping Corporate Profits at Taxpayers’ Expense

Position of ACLU of GA:   Support   Oppose

While mass incarceration destroys families, decimates communities and drains government resources, the private prison industry reaps lucrative rewards. As taxpayers suffer, top private prison executives rake in enormous compensation packages. Georgia’s taxpaying citizens should not be held responsible for locking people in cages in exchange for corporate profits.

ABRAMS

“People who are in prison have committed crimes and should be held accountable. But that accountability does not diminish their humanity, and private prisons allows us to diminish their humanity by treating them as commodities instead of treating them as people.” [Source: Marietta Daily Journal, 4/30/18]

Justice should not be a profit-making enterprise. Fees to these private companies — totaling millions of dollars annually — hit those who are already struggling the hardest, further linking poverty and our criminal justice system. Governor Deal and lawmakers made private probation less profitable in recent years, but we need to end this practice.” [Stacey Abrams for Governor, accessed 8/18/18]

KEMP

 “What I would support would be looking at the return on investment for doing contracts with private prisons —  what’s the state’s cost if we’re building facilities and manning them, versus what the private sector solution might be. I think in some ways, it’s good to have some competition out there. But my philosophy on that is what we need to be locking the bad guys up.” [Marietta Daily Journal, 5/4/18]

+ Stopping Abusive Police Reform Practices & Implementing Community Policing

Position of ACLU of GA:   Support   Oppose

Excessive force by police officers is particularly disturbing given its disproportionate impact on people of color. Indeed, the U.S. mass incarceration crisis begins at the front end of the system: in the encounters police officers have daily with individuals in their communities. We seek to have greater collaboration with, and inclusion of, community stakeholders; to improve training, policies and practices to reduce the use of force; and to encourage stronger mechanisms for transparency and accountability.

ABRAMS

“We will support the new trainings offered by the Georgia Public Safety Training Center on de-escalation, use-of-force, cultural awareness, and community relations and work to ensure they have appropriate, evidence-based curriculum.” [Stacey Abrams for Governor, accessed 8/18/18]

“Additionally, we will support transparency initiatives to ensure law enforcement policies are clearly defined for the public and data-driven solutions aid in public safety. Each law enforcement agency should have clearly written policies on use of deadly force and standard operating procedures.” [Stacey Abrams for Governor, accessed 8/18/18]

KEMP

No statement available.

+ Ending Racial Disparities

Position of ACLU of GA:   Support   Oppose

When we examine who is imprisoned in Georgia, the racial disparities become clear. In 2016, the imprisonment rate of Black adults in Georgia was more than three times that of white adults in the state. Although Black people made up 31 percent of Georgia’s population in 2016, they accounted for 61 percent of the prison population. Governor Deal implemented effective criminal justice reform policies, which have reduced the number of African Americans admitted to Georgia’s prisons in 2017. However, there is still work to be done to address the racial disparities that remain present in our criminal justice system.

ABRAMS

No statement available.

KEMP

No statement available.

+ Ending Malicious Prosecutorial Practices

Position of ACLU of GA:   Support   Oppose

With 95 percent of those incarcerated nationwide having taken plea deals -- including people who have pleaded guilty to a crime they didn’t commit to avoid the risk of a longer sentence or because they were under duress – prosecutors largely control who ends up behind bars. This focus on obtaining convictions and securing severe prison sentences, instead of addressing the root causes of crime, is a major driver of mass incarceration that compounds racial disparities throughout the justice system. Smart Justice Georgia is working for prosecutorial reform in the courts, in the legislatures, and through voter education.

ABRAMS

No statement available.

KEMP

No statement available.