What could a forest products company like Georgia-Pacific and criminal justice reform possibly have in common? On the surface they might seem like seem like strange bedfellows, but we actually have a common goal: the betterment of our communities.
Recently, we hosted a powerful panel discussion on criminal justice reform by the Charles Koch Institute at our headquarters in Atlanta. The seminar, From State in Crisis to Reform Leader, shed light on how resourcefulness, passion, bipartisan support and the willingness to give individuals a second chance can be used not only to reform, but also transform the criminal justice system.
With better reforms, more non-violent offenders can now be diverted to community-based programs where they can continue their rehabilitation and eventually enhance the overall well-being of their communities.
Georgia, the largest state we operate in and employ more than 6,000 people, has made huge strides in this area and was spotlighted in the discussion.
Just five years ago the state was facing a severe criminal justice crisis, with soaring prison populations and a considerable budget shortfall. But today, the Georgia leads the way – with community-based programs and new resources devoted to re-entry success.
The result? Prison population declines (without compromising public safety), $20 million in taxpayer savings and, most importantly, giving non-violent offenders the opportunity to improve their lives and make positive contributions to society.
While Georgia’s “smart on crime” approach has made progress, the panel acknowledged the work that still needs to be done nationwide. One specific step Georgia-Pacific has taken recently is to “ban the box” – removing the check box on hiring applications that ask if an applicant has a criminal record.
As panelist Kelly McCutchen, president and CEO of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, astutely said: “The key is being right on crime, not tough on crime.”
To watch the full panel discussion visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpEacolizL4
To see audience reactions from the panel discussion visit: http://www.charleskochinstitute.org/recap-audience-reactions-and-the-entire-georgia-criminal-justice-panel