Criminal Justice

Brian Kemp and Nathan Deal during a campaign rally.
John Amis / AP Photo

On this edition of Political Rewind, we look at criminal justice in Georgia.

Elena Rivera / GPB

A recent report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that almost 200,000 children in Georgia have an incarcerated parent. Georgia also has the highest probation rate in the country and the eighth-highest incarceration rate, according to the Georgia Council of Criminal Justice Reform.


Parental incarceration can lead to housing insecurity, financial pressures and emotional challenges for children.


The Atlanta-based nonprofit Foreverfamily helps strengthen the bonds between incarcerated parents and their children through educational programming and visitation.


Tom Grosscup

The Atlanta Opera's production of "Dead Man Walking" tells the story of Sister Helen Prejean and her relationship with death row inmate Joseph de Rocher. It's based on Prejean's real-life book chronicling her prison ministry. Prejean wrote about her experiences as a spriritual counselor to death row inmates Elmo Patrick Sonnier and Robert Lee Willie in the book, which the production amalgamates into de Rocher's character.

GPB's Sarah Zaslaw spoke to Tomer Zvulun, the Atlanta Opera's artistic director, and Georgia native Jamie Barton, who plays Sister Helen in the production. They discussed ideas of justice, forgiveness and how the opera wrestles with the dignity of victims and perpetrators of violence.

A new GPB radio drama and podcast called "Beyond Reasonable Doubt: The Troy Davis Project" reflects the conflicting public discourse surrounding the Troy Davis case.

We spoke with playwright Lee Nowell on her 2016 play adapted for radio listeners. We also spoke with former Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Rhonda Cook and the Marshall Project staff writer Maurice Chammah to learn more about the death penalty and execution process in Georgia.

Grant Blankenship / GPB News

A new GPB radio drama and podcast called "Beyond Reasonable Doubt: The Troy Davis Project" reflects the conflicting public discourse that surrounded the Troy Davis case. Davis was convicted of murder and executed in Georgia.


We spoke with former Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter Rhonda Cook and the Marshall Project staff writer Maurice Chammah to learn more about the death penalty and execution process in Georgia.


Grant Blankenship / GPB News

In 1991, Troy Davis was convicted of the murder of Savannah police office Mark MacPhail and sentenced to death. The state of Georgia executed Davis in 2011 amid public debate over his guilt or innocence.


A new radio drama based on a 2016 play explores the meaning of "reasonable doubt" in the Davis case. We spoke with Lee Nowell, the playwright of "Beyond Reasonable Doubt: The Troy Davis Project," about the play's origins and its new life as a podcast on GPB.


Georgia gubernatorial candidates Stacey Abrams, left, and Brian Kemp.
(AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton/John Amis)

On this edition of Political Rewind, Brian Kemp thinks there is a gang problem in Georgia and has laid out his plans for a new group to battle the issue. The Republican candidate for governor has come under scrutiny for figures he used to highlight the problem.

This year's Pulitzer Prize winners and finalists were announced Tuesday. We listened back to interviews with four past and present honorees. Renee Montagne was named a 2018 finalist for her investigation examining racial disparity in maternal deaths. James Forman Jr. won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction for his book "Locking Up Our Own:  Crime and Punishment in Black America." We also revisited conversations with Alfred Uhry, who won the Pulitzer for drama in 1988, as well as Bill Dedman, who in 1989 won the prize for investigative reporting.  

Left Bank Books

A new book explores why so many young men of color wind up in prison. “Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America,” is the work of Yale Law School Professor James Forman, Jr. His father was a leader of SNCC -- the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. Forman, Jr. is a graduate of Atlanta’s Roosevelt High. He joins us in the studio. 

Three former sheriff’s deputies in Washington County, Georgia face murder charges. A man they tased this summer died. The incident was captured on video. We talked with GPB’s Grant Blankenship, who is following the case.




In Georgia, county courts have contracted with private probation companies to collect fines from offenders. People are sometimes jailed for not being able to pay, even though the Supreme Court outlawed debtors’ prisons some 35 years ago. In the last couple of years, Georgia law changes made it harder for private probation companies to operate. What happens now to people who don’t pay the fines?

Ted S. Warren / The Associated Press

The stocks of the two biggest private prison companies in the nation saw a big boost shortly after President Trump took office. One of those companies is the GEO Group, which currently operates detention facilities in Georgia.

Grant Blankenship / GPB

Governor Nathan Deal has signed three new criminal justice reform bills into law.


Deal picked an audience of corrections, parole and non-profit workers at a convention called the Reentry Summit in Macon to sign the bills. The first of the three laws will affect funding for alternatives to prison time like the state’s drug courts, a place Deal says he tells his pastor friends to visit for sermon material.

Criminal Justice Council Recommends Changes To Probation

Feb 22, 2017
Bubba73 / Wikimedia Commons

State officials are recommending changes to help reduce what they say is the highest rate of felons on probation in the country.

In a report submitted to Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday, the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform said doing so would have several positive results, including reducing heavy caseloads for probation officers and allowing the officers to focus more on higher-risk offenders.


A man who escaped from a Georgia prison almost 50 years ago may be headed back to the state. Robert Stackowitz appeared in court on Tuesday in Connecticut for an extradition hearing. Stackowitz appealed that decision and is now out on bail. We spoke with his attorney Norm Pattis a few months ago about the case.

Women Behind Bars

Aug 25, 2016
Vera Institute of Justice

A new report by the Vera Institute of Justice found the number of women in local jails is almost 14 times what it was in the 1970s, making it the fastest growing incarcerated population in the country. We examine what’s driving this trend and the challenges women face behind bars. 

Joining for the conversation: 

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President Obama has ordered prison terms to be shortened for more than 200 federal inmates. It's the largest commutation of prison sentences in more than a century. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

Can Kids Be Scared Straight?

Jun 8, 2016
Grant Blankenship / GPB

At the inmate’s direction, the children drop to the floor.

“Down!” she shouts, almost screeches. Almost immediately there’s a new command.


A new command, just as fast.


The kids can’t keep up. They aren’t meant to. Pretty soon it’s obvious that many of these kids, especially the ones who are not yet teenagers, are terrified.

Trevor Young / GPB

Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill Wednesday to amend criminal justice procedures in Georgia.