Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has been pushing for criminal justice reform ever since he took office, but he said there's still a lot more work to be done.
Georgia State University’s Rialto Center for the Arts theater in downtown Atlanta was packed with more than 400 judges, officers and lawyers Wednesday.
They were there to watch a documentary called "Released" produced by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia about the challenges prisoners face when they are released from prison.
U.S. Attorney John Horn said his office is “definitely not in the movie-making business,” so they solicited help from director Forrest Tuff to raise awareness and increase the public's understanding.
"When someone comes out of prison, some of these people have done very bad acts, so it's not an immediate acceptance within the community,” Horn said.
Horn said these individuals should be recognized for completing their punishment and serving their time and should be connected to mental health services if needed.
He said about 77 percent of state inmates return to prison within five years.
Deal said two factors contribute to recidivism.
"Housing and employment are the two biggest stumbling blocks people coming out of our prison system face, so we're going to try continue to try to work on that,” Deal said.
Deal said he wants the Legislature to take up the issue of housing and employment for ex-convicts next year.
Horn said his office is responsible for putting people in jail, but it also wants to be more involved in helping people when they're released.
Horn announced the launch of the Metro Atlanta Re-Entry Coalition (MARC) at the documentary screening. It’s an informal network for metro Atlanta counties and groups to collaborate on re-entry programs.
"It's an opportunity to make sure that if there's a program that's working in one county and there's good statistical data to show a reduction in recidivism rate, that that's something that can be replicated in another county,” Horn said.