Columbus advocates ride 'bus to justice' to talk to lawmakers about criminal justice reform

Columbus advocates ride 'bus to justice' to talk to lawmakers about criminal justice reform
Updated: Feb. 26, 2018 at 1:43 PM EST
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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Despite a rainy start to the day, advocates in Columbus hopped on a bus headed to Atlanta Monday morning.

Their plan: demand changes to the criminal justice system from their lawmakers.

"Our future is in jeopardy," Gail Thompkins said. "Our jails are filling up."

Around a dozen men and women from different groups around the Fountain City, drove to the State Capitol to talk to state representatives one-on-one.

They hope to persuade legislators to introduce new bills they think will help thousands of Georgians that are in, or went through, the justice system.

"A lot of times, people make laws," advocate Waleisah Wilson said, "and not really, are familiar with, or they're not affected by a person. When you go to prison, that is supposed to be your punishment. You should not have to come home and be punished for the rest of your life," she said.

Some of the laws that Wilson and other advocates want to change vary from the types of sentences given to minors, to restoring voting rights for people in prison, while also informing them their rights are restored after leaving prison.

"At 13 years old, depending on the crime they could be charged as an adult," NAACP chapter president Tonza Thomas said. If you're 18 to buy a pack of cigarettes, you should be 18 to accept an adult sentence."

"A lot of [people] don't know that as soon as they serve their time and pay their restitution, they have the right to register and vote," Thomas added.

Advocates also want lawmakers to partner with local businesses and connect with qualified employees and candidates, even if they have an offense on their record after they receive the right job training and education while serving time.

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