"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Our constitution is designed to safeguard the citizenry against government abuses of power. But all too often, the rights of those involved in the criminal justice system are compromised or ignored.

The rights guaranteed to the accused, defendants, offenders and prisoners are fundamental rights that protect all Americans from governmental abuse of power. These rights include the guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure (4th Amendment), the right to reasonable bail (5th Amendment), the right to due process of law (4th, 5th, 14th Amendment) and the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment (8th Amendment).

By fighting for nationwide reforms to police practices, indigent defense systems, disproportionate sentencing, and government abuses of authority in the name of fighting crime, and drug policies which have failed to achieve public safety and health while putting an unprecedented number of people behind bars, the ACLU is working to reverse the tide of over-incarceration, protect constitutional rights, eliminate racial disparities, and increase government accountability and transparency.

Recent criminal justice reform milestones in Georgia: 

May 2016: Governor Nathan Deal signed Senate Bill 376 which reduces barriers to reentry for thousands of previously incarcerated Georgia citizens, including:

  • Updates the First Offender Act to give those sentenced under the act a real second chance in the digital age, improving the odds for rehabilitated first offenders to secure jobs;
  • Extends “ban the box” protections and improves the way criminal records are considered for state occupational licensing, allowing only reasonably related convictions to be considered;
  • Allows retroactive reinstatement of driver’s licenses revoked for non-vehicle related drug offenses and driver’s license reinstatement fee relief for indigent individuals;
  • Lifts the lifetime ban on food stamps for people with felony drug convictions, helping many of these people access proper nutrition.

 The State of Georgia’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget includes funding to add 15 new juvenile defender positions and $1.7 million in salary increases for public defenders and support staff

 Georgia House Bill 941 is approved and will become law July 1, 2016. The new law mandates that police officers facing prosecution for use of deadly force can no longer be present during grand jury proceedings, and they will have to take questions from prosecutors.

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