Governor unveils phase three of criminal justice overhaul

By: Hope Jensen Email
By: Hope Jensen Email

News 12 at 11 o'clock/ Thursday, Dec. 2th, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Georgia Governor Nathan Deal unveiled the third phase of his criminal justice reform just last week and we're already seeing the intended results right here on our streets.

Former inmate Sean Walker was convicted of murder in 1993. He spent 20 years in jail and in May he was released. Now with the governors help he's back home in Augusta with a full time job and dreams for a future.

Today he works as a banquet manager at Goodwill, but for the past 20 years his life's been a lot different.

"I committed a horrible crime in 93 and the crime was, it was emotional, it was a bad decision, a last minute decision," Walker explained.

He was sentenced for murder to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

"I spent all these years regretting it and trying to figure out how can I give back not only to the victims family, but to my family," Walker said.

He figured the best way to give back was not to give up and to make something out of himself.

"There's so much negativity going on in the prison system and there's a handful of people who really feel bad about what they've done and so they will take the necessary personal steps to try to better themselves," Walker said.

In 2005 Walker began working at the Governor's mansion. When Governor Deal took office, he worked closely with the Governor.

"He let me know that look we're gonna do everything we can to help the guys who want to help themselves," Walker said.

Walker said that help is the key to transitioning offenders back into society and that's what Governor Deal's newest plan aims to do.

Phase three of his criminal justice overhaul would move funds to add five housing counselors for released inmates. It also supports a plan to block some state agencies and departments from disqualifying applicants because of prior convictions,allowing them a face to face interview to explain the situation.

For Walker, a second chance was all he needed.

"He'll come in and thank us for the opportunity, but truly you thank him because when you find somebody like Sean he becomes a role model for others to look up to and say look if you do give somebody a chance, this is what can happen," said Edgar's Grill General Manager Jason Aumick.

"This program will give some more hope to people to say look your life is not over," Walker added. "Even though you have a life sentence, 20 years, 30 years; it's never over until it's over."

Walker's now living at the Augusta Transitional Center and hopes to be released in the next few weeks. He was able to get his job thanks to Goodwill's Job Connections.

Governor Deal is hoping this plan would reduce the number of people who re-offend, reducing the amount of money taxpayers have to pay to the prison system.

The recidivism rate in Georgia is as high as 34 percent. The latest numbers from the Georgia Department of Corrections show each inmate costs tax-payers more than $18,000 a year. So aside from cutting down on crime Governor Deal hopes keeping ex-cons from re-offending could also save the state a lot of money.

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