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Criminal Justice Council Gets Civil Asset Forfeiture Assignment



Governor Nathan Deal has raised the ante on civil asset forfeiture reform in Georgia by formally asking the new Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform to bring forward its own recommendation – and he means before the General Assembly returns in January.

Ten new members and five holdovers from last year’s Council were told about civil asset forfeiture reform during their initial meeting Thursday afternoon at the State Capitol.  Civil asset forfeiture reform was perhaps the most contentious issue in the 2013 General Assembly.

House Bill 1 would have limited the power sheriffs and district attorneys have to seize the assets of people who have been convicted of no crime, convert those assets to cash, and then use the cash essentially however they want to supplement their public budgets.

The legislation was angrily opposed by sheriffs in committee hearings and by district attorneys in more civil dialogue.  HB 1 passed committee but never received a House floor vote as sheriffs packed the Capitol in visible – some might say intimidating — opposition to the bill.   Technically, HB 1 remains alive and could be called to a floor vote or a new bill could be drafted.

The momentum to again reconsider civil asset forfeiture law began to swing in spring and early summer.  Several news media reports asked questions about how some public officials seized personal property and spent civil asset forfeiture funds.  Governor Deal suggested another look.  House Speaker David Ralston created a study committee.  Now the Governor has formally asked the Council on Criminal Justice Reform to weigh in before January.

“We by no means intend to be running counter to the Speaker’s work group,” said Governor’s Office Deputy Executive Counsel Thomas Worthy.  “Probably it’s more perfect to say we will be running parallel to that.”  Worthy and Court of Appeals Judge Michael Boggs are co-chairs of the Criminal Justice Reform Council, as they were in 2012.  Boggs noted, “There are different schools of thought on that.  There are some politics involved and we’ll just deal with it.”

The Criminal Justice Reform Council membership has been significantly rebuilt since last year which reflects its new focus.  Gone are prosecutors and folks with expertise on who should be behind bars and how they should be managed inside.  The Council is smaller – down from 21 to 15 members — all appointed by Governor Deal.  New members were appointed because of their expertise in employment, housing and community-based programs.

Members include executives from Home Depot and Georgia Power, a pastor with experience in community programs and the executive director of a non-profit housing support association.  Several members are from outside the Atlanta metropolitan region.  The Governor’s Office for Children and Families executive director was appointed.  A new Governor’s Office of Transition, Support and Re-Entry was established to coordinate goals and monitor accountability.

The 2011 Council focus on adult reforms emphasized incarceration of violent or repeat serious offenders, and the expansion of accountability courts and treatment for non-violent offenders who would benefit more from mental health or drug counseling than incarceration.

The 2012 Council recommended ending lock-up detention for juvenile status offenders, such as school truants, whose actions would not be crimes if they were adults.  The Council pushed for and the Legislature adopted recommendations to expand community-based programs.

Last month the Deal administration announced $4.6 million in state grants for two dozen juvenile court jurisdictions to start or expand community treatment programs.  Other juvenile court applications are pending. Total grant dollars available this fiscal year is about $6 million.

“We’ve addressed what we do when (adults or juveniles) are in the system,” Judge Boggs said.  “We’re trying to address what we do before they get into the system with the juvenile courts.  Think of this as a three-legged stool.  Now what are we going to do when they get out?”

Boggs, Worthy, Judge Steve Teske, Judge Jason Deal and Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry are holdover members from the 2012 Council.  Here is a link to the Governor’s Office executive order that announced Council membership.

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.)

August 16, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Teaching the Teachers to Teach with Technology

Mike Klein

Mike Klein

Georgia school doors re-opened this month which means the serious business of Friday night football looms near.  On the academic side, the battle to achieve something greater than statewide learning mediocrity punctuated by occasional points of light resumes anew.  But there also is another mission underway, one that could potentially remake the teaching profession.

“We cannot send our student teachers into classrooms, expect them to blend, expect them to know what to do without having (technology) preparation,” says Jo Williamson, associate professor of instructional technology at Kennesaw State University.  “We cannot send graduates to (public) schools that are our clients and expect them to retrain them.”

Last year Governor Nathan Deal appointed a Digital Learning Task Force to create a statewide digital learning strategy from K-12 through higher education.  Last week the task force was at Kennesaw State University to discuss teacher preparation in the emerging new digital world.

“We have students coming in that know how to surf the web, they know how to use social networking,” says Williamson, “but do they know how to teach with technology?”  (Watch on YouTube.)  Previous generations of teachers trained for the classroom.  Next generations must become skilled and comfortable in classroom and online instruction.

Also, many teachers who have one or even two decades before retirement never experienced online learning during their educations but they must now prepare students for an increasingly digital world in and beyond schools.  They need to catch up through professional development.

It is fair to conclude that teacher preparation is not a one-size-fits-all conversation.

Michael Horn, co-founder at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, noted, “It just doesn’t make sense to carry on old practices designed to teach large batches of students.”  University system assistant vice chancellor Mary Angela Coleman told the task force, “Are there things that we used to do that we don’t need to do anymore?”  (Watch on YouTube.)

This summer Kennesaw State hired a technology coach to help train its faculty.  “If we’re going to bring up our faculty (skills) we need someone who can help them,” said Williamson.
In January, Kennesaw State will launch its first MOOC – a Massive Online Open Course – to provide existing teachers with an introduction to online learning.  “It’s going to be free to all Georgia educators,” said Traci Redish, chair at KSU’s Department of Instructional Technology.  KSU Online offers hundreds of courses leading to bachelor and master degrees or certification.

MOOCs are the far edge of learning without borders. Georgia Tech offers MOOC courses, as does Emory University.  Georgia Public Broadcasting President Teya Ryan noted during the task force meeting that she enrolled in a MOOC course that had 30,000 students.   “I have to say, that kept bringing me back to the course because I was fascinated by that,” Ryan said.

Other distinct online examples:  Georgia Virtual School at the state Department of Education offers traditional and credit-recovery courses to middle and high school students; the University System’s ECORE project provides two years of basic higher education core curriculum online.  Another example is Georgia on My Line which is available at 31 Georgia higher ed institutions.

Online learning is a resource for non-traditional students – for example, working adults whose time is precious.  More and more, Georgia higher education serves older students who are not typical 18-to-23-year-olds but someone who has chosen to return to school after a lapse.

The Digital Learning Task Force will report its recommendations to Governor Deal before the end of the calendar year.  The top line message is to watch this sector closely.   The bottom line message is big, big things are happening and they will continue to develop at a rapid pace.

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.)

August 16, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment