Opinion

Deal proposes next logical step in justice reform

Over Gov. Nathan Deal's first five years in office, reform of Georgia's criminal justice system has been among his top legislative and budgetary priorities. The Georgia General Assembly has made significant changes in both adult and juvenile sentencing and detention laws, again allowing courts more discretion in choosing alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders. (For the most part, it's a degree of judicial discretion that should never have been seized by the legislative branch in the first place.)

Among the legislative changes in recent years have been special courts for veterans and juveniles, and for substance abuse-related offenses; and funding for more education funding at both juvenile and adult detention facilities. (Marketable skills are still the best hedge against recidivism.)

Deal's proposed budget for the coming fiscal year expands on that agenda. He is asking the legislature to appropriate more money not just for state prison education programs, but also to help fund education and job programs at the county level. Specifically, the governor is asking for $1.3 million to help local officials create jail job-training partnerships with the state's technical college system. The presence of Columbus Technical College, obviously, makes that idea more than an abstract here.

Granted, $1.3 million in job training funds for local inmates won't stretch far across 159 counties. But the concept is sound.

A challenging, though inevitable, consequence of the criminal justice changes Deal and the legislature have wrought so far: As more and more nonviolent offenders have been diverted into alternative sentencing, community service and rehabilitation programs, the state's corrections system has been left with a larger percentage of dangerous inmates.

So Deal's proposed budget also includes $6.3 million for prison renovations to help officials control and contain the worst of the worst.

Slimy business

It's a near-universal consensus that Hitler's concentration camps -- along with Josef Stalin's communist purges and the "killing fields" of Cambodia's Pol Pot -- define the depths of human depravity.

How, then, do we describe the ethical vacuum of travel agencies conspiring to rig prices of school field trips to Auschwitz and other Holocaust memorial venues?

The Associated Press and other international news organizations report that nine people have been arrested by Israeli police in connection with an alleged scheme to fix prices for high school trips to former Nazi camps in Poland.

According to a police investigation, the tour companies colluded on prices and agreed to divide up the proceeds from whatever company got the "bid" to take students to Holocaust sites.

Words fail. Israeli justice, we hope, will not.

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