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Letter from the Publisher

Highli Hi ghlight ght Mag Ma gazine

Dear Athenians and Readers,

Editor in Chief Ron Lamon Carson Jr.

I always try to make each issue of Highlight Magazine timely and relevant. Some issues are more timely and relevant than others.

Writer/Copy Editor Troy Copeland

Our community is not simply at a crossroads. We’ve made some choices and now we’re seeing if the direction we have chosen is the right one. We had valuable, honorable, and necessary though peaceful and persistent protests over the summer that got the attention of our mayor and commission. Beyond removing a monument for a fee of over six-hundred thousand dollars, the forward progress seems a bit elusive. We impaneled a group to discuss the formation of a task force to provide community review and input on policing in Athens. However, the shouting arguments and gridlock became a very public rebuke. All too often, readily offered answers to ongoing problems are far more complex in practice than in idea.

CONTENTS Letter from 1 the publisher Cleveland spruill 2

Did we take the right road to go where we want to go? Time will tell. Time is already telling.

julita sanders 4

We see our locally elected officials holding the same kinds of out-of-view meetings on land deals for which they criticized their predecessors. We see the county using $250,000 in tax dollars to buy a public toilet for downtown while access to quality childcare and affordable housing has yet to be provided to alleviate the stresses of this pandemic. We’ve seen a noticeable rise in violent crime and property crime. Is this the change we were asking for, hoping for, or promised?

donarell green 8 Shane Sims 10

When I was a freshman at Cedar Shoals my house was robbed. The kids who did it bragged about it at school. I know who they are till this day. So why didn’t I turn them in? Because, at the end of the day, all consequences handed out were going to do nothing to rehabilitate anyone. On top of all that, it would’ve only caused more problems for me. People talk about having others pay their debt to society. What about the debt to me? Society didn’t take that loss, my mom and I did.

Scott berry 14 james howard 18 dustin kirby 20

The criminal justice system is a multi-layered apparatus. While local activists cling tightly to the notion that their efforts to reform the system are a benevolent salve for the black community, they seem to forget that we are as often the victims as the actual perpetrator. In a town where the poverty rate is thirty-eight percent, the problem is complicated, and challenges the simplistic notion that one more election or budget line item will fix it. Valuable, honorable, and necessary though protest is, the best answers to our challenges are not likely to fit on the side of a protest placard.

Patty rollers 22 will catch you. Troy Copeland

So welcome to the complicated, difficult, enduring and politicized challenge that is our criminal justice issue. I hope it makes you a little more informed. Because having citizens know more about what is going on is the one strategy that is certain to make things better.

Letter to the 27 publisher kelly Girtz Around town 28

I thank my readers and supporters for their patience, Ron Lamon Carson Jr. Highlight Magazine (770) 744-6403 thehighlightmagazine@gmail.com

SB202: voting in ga. 30 business directory 32 HIGHLIGHT


Cleveland Spruill If you were to draft a 50/10 plan to address mental health awareness within the police force what does that look like? Well, first let me say that, um, I think a simple 50/10 plan--the model that they have looked at nationally--does not make sense, will not work, and is not something that I would support. Uh, you can't just arbitrarily say we're going to cut a police department in half, uh, to put money in funding elsewhere and expect that you're not going to, uh, welcome a state of lawlessness of less safe community--a community where criminals and people who are committing violence and selling drugs feel comfortable. But the average citizen is law abiding, not a criminal. And so I can't support a 50/10 plan, because it's an arbitrary knee jerk reaction. That's the first thing. The second thing is our people in our community. I've been out in Athens and I've talked to people. And when I'm talking to people, they're not saying they want to cut funds to our police department. In most cases, they're saying we need more police officers. “Where are you at? We want you to open up the center in Nellie B. We want you to be out in the community.” Well, that's what I'm hearing from citizens. They're not saying “Cut police funding.” And don't get me wrong--drug abuse, drug addiction, mental health issues, social issues? Absolutely. We need to put more resources into our community to try to help those people and get them resources. So, I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't do that. We should, but it's not one or the other; you can do that without cutting funding to the police department. And, in fact, we've been working toward that endeavor since 2015 with the Jerry NeSmith behavioral health co-responder team. Our program here in Athens Clarke County is getting regional, local, and national attention because of the successes that we're having. Expanding on a program that's already been very effective is important to me in that regard. We try every year, during budget time, to go back into our budget and see what opportunities are there to reduce spending and give something up for the sake of other things that we don't have. My question is this: if we cut the police department, who are you going to call? You can't call a social worker because somebody just shot at you, or because someone burglarized your house. And so there's a need for police officers there. We had six thousand property crimes and three thousand two hundred crimes against persons in Athens/Clarke County last year, and more than four hundred aggravated assaults. So If we're going to defund any aspect of the police power, fifty percent is way out of whack. But each year I'm willing to sit down with the manager and commission and say, “Here's where I think we need resources.”

Chief of the Athens Police Department

I think what you noticed when you were watching the developmental task force was a lack of voice and a lack of involvement from the police department. And that was because, after a certain period of time, they were just not willing to take input, with advice or guidance from the police department. And if the police department is going to be an integral part of this thing, that's absolutely necessary. That's the first thing. The second thing is there are some people who just don't have a very positive outlook on the police department--men and women in here. What I can say to you is that the more you get to know the men and women of the Athens/Clarke County police department, the more you will appreciate the very difficult and dangerous job they do and how compassionate they are and how they love their community and the work that they're doing. You will come to appreciate it. And that's what I felt was lacking in this whole thing, where it's almost as if these officers are doing something wrong and we need to take control and fix it. That's not what this thing is about. This is about us getting together, having dialogue, communicating about what the issues and concerns are and working together to improve it because there's always room to improve. If I'm going to end on one thing, what I would end on is this: come to some of those trainings--crisis intervention, training fair, and impartial policing training. I'll send you a link to let you know when they take place. Come on into some of that training to see how hard we're trying to meet the expectations of the community that we serve.

What does a 38% poverty rate mean for Athens? Is the expectation of poverty related crime in Athens reasonable? I think Athens, in a sense, is very much like other communities and then, sometimes, very unlike other communities. Here's what I mean, unlike most other communities, urban communities across the nation, you're going to have pockets of poverty mostly forgotten communities. These communities suffer from a larger proportion of poverty, crime, violence, and drugs. You know the communities that I'm talking about; you don’t even have to state names. And so the focus has got to be on helping those communities, getting help to those communities. I was proud of Athens last year when our board put together a prosperity project--where they put millions of dollars towards trying to say, “We're going to push some money into those communities to try to begin to address those long standing systemic and social issues in those communities.” But I'll tell you what does trouble me sometimes. If you’re driving around on game day, you see tailgating, drinking, partying, and all the energy that's being put into that stuff. It is easy to forget that right around the corner What did you learn from the developmental task force? you have extreme poverty--38%, right there. There's a need How could interaction have been better? for opportunities to understand this dichotomy that exists . HIGHLIGHT




Julita sanders

Neighborhood Service officer at ACCPD

Where have you seen the most crime in Athens? List criminal justice system along with community collaboration some of your experiences and how your training/experi- can break. ence helped you get through those situations. What is the relationship between Athens’ youth and There is no one specific area. There are different ACC law enforcement? How has ACCPD worked to build types of crime depending on the area. If there is an area better relationships in the community? where the student population is high, then you will see a lot of entering autos and breaking and entering. Somewhere The relationship between Athens youth and ACC else you may see a lot of gang activity. I am able to work law enforcement is actually really good. I have worked for through different situations because of my connection with ACCPD Community Outreach for 10 years and we are very the community. I have served my community in various ways. active with the youth. For over 20 years we have facilitated the I was the past chair of Envision Athens, Lead Athens, the School Safety Patrol program and hosted the annual Safety inaugural class of the Evelyn C Neely Leadership Academy, Patrol trip to Six Flags, the ACCPD Summer Camp, Santa part time professor at Athens Technical College, and active Cop, Shop with a Cop, Eggstravaganza, National Night Out member of the NAACP--all of which connected me with and a host of other events with a focus on the youth. With people throughout the community who could assist me with all of that being said, I don’t think there is a disconnect for different situations. younger kids; however, there could be more programs geared towards teens. Give us some examples of what motivated you to start Juvenile Offender Advocate. How do you plan to support What do you think of the 50/10 Plan? What do you forejuveniles as they go through the justice system? see happening in Athens if the police department was defunded? Which communities would be impacted the Working in various settings, which allowed me to most? Why? see youth in different spaces, motivated me to start JOA. Working at the SOAR Academy, which was an alternative I personally think that the 50/10 plan is not a logical education program where the focus was behavior, we didn’t plan for the Athens Clarke County community. It is my opinion know that child’s background or living situation and some of that we have some who are trying to make this county look those kids were looking for structure that they were not get- like Ferguson, Louisville and other places and that’s just not ting at home. Transitioning from SOAR to Juvenile Court, I the case here. Athens Clarke County Police Department saw the same kids. Now I know these kids were homeless, is one of if not the top premier agencies in the world. Our sexually abused and a host of other issues that are difficult agency goes above and beyond to connect and build posifor adults to handle. This was why they couldn’t concentrate tive relationships with the community. I do not think that in school. the 50/10 plan is a logical plan for the Athens Clarke County community for specific reasons however I do agree with some Presently, working at ACCPD, I see the same kids of the suggestions of the 50/10 plan for example, I do agree are now adults--in jail or dead. I felt like our community let with adding more funding that would allow for another Social them down and there was no accountability. Worker position in the ACCPD agency and I also agree with adding more funding to allow the public defender’s office to My organization will provide advocates for juvenile have an actual Social Worker on staff, but I do notagree with offenders and state court offenders age 17-24. These qualified taking funds from an agency that is already suffering because advocates will follow the offenders throughout their court pro- we are not paying officers what other surrounding agencies cess ensuring fair sentencing, access to resources to include are paying. going to Athens Technical College for free and apprenticeship opportunities in areas such as Welding, Forklift Driver, Defunding the Police Department would be a terrible Maintenance and Logistics mistake in my opinion. We are constantly losing officers and . civilian staff, they are going to other agencies because of the The main goal is lowering the recidivism rate and pay. According to the 50/10 plan not only would it take funds decreasing the poverty level in Athens Clarke County. from the Police Department to fund other community events and or organizations, but it also would cut the staffing in half What would you like to be different in the criminal justice which is not a good idea. Presently, we are not fully staffed. system? Defunding the police department would be bad for morale and more would leave. More programs that focus on the entire family structure, not just the offender but the parents as well. Parents ACCPD is not an agency for specific communities can’t teach what they don’t know. And our youth are like but all Athens Clarke County communities. With that being sponges; they emulate what they see. It’s a cycle that the said defunding would impact all. HIGHLIGHT HIGHLIGHT







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Donarell Green Describe what you're seeing in the courtroom these days. What cases stand out? What factors matter in how you decide on a case? As a result of COVID-19, we are not seeing as many cases as is typical. Nevertheless, we are pressing forward as best we can under the circumstances in all the matters we handle. We conduct bond hearings by video between the courthouse and the jail video systems. We continue to conduct in-person civil hearings and preliminary hearings with strict adherence to screening, sanitizing, distancing, and other safety protocols. Each of the cases that we handle have a significant impact on someone’s life and, often, the lives of others in our community; therefore, every single case stands out. Bond hearings are the cases where you most often see someone who has never been arrested, so, in those instances, it is an opportunity to educate and plant a seed in someone that may change the course of their life for the better. I try to seize those opportunities when they arise. The factors that drive my deliberation and decision making in these cases are the facts, the law, and the exercise of judgment that is fair, efficient, compassionate, rational, informed, consistent, and reliable to the best of my abilities. We are all the sum total of our experiences in life and I would like to think that has helped me a great deal on the bench.

Having children and grandchildren of your own, what do you want to make sure all kids know as they explore the community? Have love for your community. Seek out opportunities to become the best version of yourself. Know that education, hard work, faith, and the content of your character can make your dreams become reality. Reading, writing, studying, discipline, and a good work ethic can create a pathway of success and stability for you, your family, and your community. You will be challenged and tested, but you have what it takes to overcome any obstacle you may encounter. You can do it and your community believes in you.

Athens Clarke County Magistrate Court judge

The Judges in Athens, Georgia are an indispensable part of the criminal justice system in our community. It is, therefore, necessary that we stay connected, stay informed, stay educated, stay vigilant, and stay dedicated to the continued advancement and uplift of our system of justice. It is extremely difficult to recall any single experience or even set of experiences that have brought clarity to my understanding of the criminal justice system, but, if I had to pick one thing that has helped in that endeavor, it would be MY FAITH and MY EDUCATION. More than clarity, my goal has been one of continued research, learning from others and experiences, and serving the community when and where I can. I have gained great satisfaction from representing our youth and their families and working closely with all the professionals in our criminal justice system over the years. Is the criminal justice system changing? If so, in what direction? Please evaluate that direction. I am encouraged by our accomplishments with accountability courts and focus on diversity on the bench. Representation is extremely important to the administration of justice and engenders confidence in and respect for our system of justice. It is important that all of our citizens see themselves in our justice system and know that they will be treated fairly and with respect. There also seems to be a growing public interest in the legal system in general which has inspired many of our citizens to get involved in worthy community service programs, pursue education, and stay informed. This is very helpful and very important to an efficient, effective, and accountable system of justice.

As an Athenian, business owner, and government official, what are your aspirations as you continue your Judgeship? My aspiration is to be the absolute best Father and Grandfather I can be. As a Judge in Magistrate Court, I aspire to take one day at a time, one case at a time, and do my absolute best as a public servant each day. Stay involved in How important is it for you to stay connected with your the community. Support the youth. Do what you can to help hometown’s criminal justice system? What experiences heal those of us suffering from poverty, alcohol/drug abuse, have brought clarity to your understanding of this mental illness, and domestic violence. system?




Shane sims

director of people living in recovery/ co-chair of police advisory task force

Walk us through your experience in the criminal justice system? training. However, after completing it, I was offered another job with How did you come about starting People Living in Recovery? People Living in Recovery, a 501 c (3) non-profit that offers recovery support services. This would allow me to work more directly with There were several variables that led me to participating in individuals facing substance use challenges. It also happened to a supposedly harmless armed robbery at the age of eighteen that pay quite a bit more. Within a year, the Board of Directors offered resulted in both the death of a store clerk and me being sentenced me the position of Executive Director. I was immediately faced with to prison for my involvement. Although I had no idea that my co- the challenge of retaining the organization’s primary source of funddefendant would shoot the clerk, under Georgia’s “accessory” law, ing, improving operations, and rebranding the organization. Today, I was equally responsible for his death, and, therefore, could be some 2 years later, PLR offers recovery support services throughout sentenced just as harshly as one who pulled the trigger. It was an Athens and to more than 900 individuals per month. option that the District Attorney chose to pursue. Although I turned myself in and accepted responsibility for my role and pled guilty, What is Modern Pathways to Recovery Housing and how long the DA sought and secured against me a sentence of life plus 15 do citizens reside in a unit? What is a typical day like with years. The fact that I was in my senior year of high school, had residents? What have you learned about them and how have never been in any serious trouble, and had an extensive support you adjusted PLR operations with that information? network--in contrast to my four co-defendants, three of whom had extensive criminal histories--did nothing to mitigate the sentence. When it comes to recovery, one of the things that I quickly realized is that recovery opportunities are greatly under marketed However, my primary concern at the time was not the to minority communities. I believe that its largely due to the fact that draconian sentence or social implications; rather, it was the realiza- recovery can cost money - although not necessarily so - and lack tion that my actions, no matter how indirectly, had contributed to of financial resources and insurance makes minority communities someone's death. I had begun using marijuana heavily and drink- highly unattractive to the “recovery market.” This is a view shared ing alcohol, which was the only thing that I had in common with by a close friend of mine, Edmond Patterson, a white male from my co-defendants. I took full responsibility for putting myself in my Canton, Ga. We also shared a dream of extending affordable recovcircumstances. I entered the Georgia State Prison System in a state ery housing to that demographic. Through prayer, hard work, and of contrition. I had no idea if I would ever walk back out of the prison good fortune, we opened Modern Pathways to Recovery housing gates. However, I determined that if I didn’t, then I would make the for men February 1, 2021. We have 7 beds and the unit is now at best of whatever amount of life God allowed me to live inside of capacity. In addition to recovery support, we offer financial literacy training, communication skill building, jobs, family reunification, them. etc. We want to address more than just the addiction: we want to I quickly learned why the Georgia penal system was no also improve the men’s chances of living prosperous lives. Resilonger called “The Department of Corrections.” In 1995, only months dents of MPR attend recovery support groups daily, engage house prior, then prison commissioner, Wayne Garner, led several busloads mates through group meetings, complete daily chores, complete of tactical squads to different prisons throughout the state. By the any classes, then prepare for work (3rd shift). time they left each prison, many inmates had been beaten bloody with little to no provocation. One guy whom I would grow very close What I have learned through the men of MPR is the power to was actually beaten into paralysis for using the restroom inside of empathic support coupled with opportunities to inspire within a of his cell without being given permission to. In a public statement, person a renewed ambition for an abundant life. I would like to see Gardner opined that most prisoners aren’t worth the bullet it would more recovery support and mental health services offered. My expetake to kill them. He removed all college courses and most reha- rience both within the prison system as well as the Director of PLR bilitative elements from the system, and renamed it simply, “State has made it clear that most criminal activity is related to substance Prison.” He demoralized staff and much of the inmate population. use disorder and/or mental health challenges. The effects would last for years to come. What has made it difficult to have a clear dialogue when it This was the system and environment I entered. I knew comes to the Citizens Advisory Task Force? How can both that I had to fight hard to avoid being victimized by it and make a the community and Police department partner to build trust? life for myself. I became an avid reader, participated in every type of positive event, and dedicated myself to building up those around What has made it difficult is the polarized nature of the me. My “glass half full” attitude and love for people led to the build- current socio-political environment and a tendency for each side to ing of a positive reputation that eventually spread throughout the view the other through lenses that have been tinted by the actions system, among both the inmate population and administration. Three and views of a minority of people. Wardens would petition the Parole Board on my behalf at different times, eventually leading to my release on February 3, after serving For instance, although even one use of excessive force 20 years. My reputation preceded my release and, within months, by law enforcement is too much, the numbers are relatively low I was working, taking care of my family, and fully engaged with the here in Athens. The refusal to recognize this fact on the behalf of community. the community will surely sabotage any efforts to constructively address this moderate, but very real issue. Concomitantly, the PD During my second year of freedom, I began receiving invi- must recognize the fact that they have the goodwill of the majortations to speak at different places and events, including within the ity of the community. If it is assumed that any and every effort to prison system. After speaking at Athens Day Report Center drugs, address the very real issues that exist between law enforcement alcohol and human resilience, I was offered a job there. However, and minority communities across this country is nothing more than I would have to obtain a Certified Addiction Recovery Empower- hatred for the PD veiled by political jargon, then this will sabotage ment Specialist (CARES) certification. I immediately applied for the any hopes of addressing them in a constructive manner as well. HIGHLIGHT



It’s time for the common sense people of Athens-Clarke County to wake up and see what would be one of the most dangerous concepts to come to our town. We have seen many incidents of misconduct by those who are sworn to serve and protect the communities where they perform their duties as Police Officers. From some different groups of concerned but but informed citizen we have received the shout “DEFUND THE POLICE.Let me make one thing perfectly clear. We do not need to defund the Athens Clarke County Police Department.

Defunding this department of our local government that has always been woefully underfunded and not very competitive in compensation to men and women who put their lives in jeopardy every day that they serve. There is always room for improvement in any department and certainly within a department with such a critical mission of providing the safety that we want and deserve, there may be some changes that are needed. “DEFUNDING THE POLICE” is not the answer. To allow individuals with agenda’s and no experience, understanding or knowledge of what it takes to provide a functioning police department is very unwise and also very dangerous. The Police Department and the men and women who serve therein are reflective of society as a whole. There are some good officers, some so-so officers and some bad officers. I think that is just about the same for any group of individuals in our society. The good ones need to be supported, the so-so ones need to be encouraged and the bad ones need to be held accountable. The police officer has the very important role within our communities to enforce our laws, keep our citizens protected from those who would do harm to person and property and to maintain a civil society. With less resources, the dangerous job of providing for the common good becomes more of a challenge that will likely go unmet for those who have sworn to serve and protect us. With less policing, those who would do harm in our community will be able to act with less concern of being prevented or held accountable for criminal acts. We don’t have to go very far to see the results of “Defunding The Police.” In nearby Washington Georgia, in Wilkes County, The police department was defunded several years ago and today it is the Wild West Show and the place where Gangs are thriving. There are not many days that go by that there is not a shooting within their community. The areas that most need the police services are the ones that are suffering the most. The Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office has tried to fill the void but has not been able to provide the level of safety and security that those of Washington, Georgia need and deserve. The citizens of Washington Ga are living in a crime infested environment that is a direct result from defunding the police and allowing criminals freedom to do as they please. Yes, we may need changes in ACCPD, but we need competent individuals to be engaged in addressing the ever changing needs of a department that is responsible for the safety of our entire community.Any defunding of ACCPD will lead to increasing crime, slower response time for citizens and giving the criminals just what they want. Let us look for ways to improve our police department and not to try to starve it to death by “Defunding The Police.”



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Scott Berry

Retired Sheriff at Oconee county sheriff's office

How long have you been in law enforcement? Give us some insight into the challenges of your position. What unique solutions have you implemented during your experiences?

I graduated from the 31st Session of the Northeast Georgia Police Academy, September 22, 1978. I spent 43 years of my life dedicated to enforcing the law and protecting the citizens of Athens and Oconee Counties. It is interesting to remember that out of 13 of us in my class, 3 went on to be elected long term Sheriffs in Northeast Georgia: Jack Fortson in Madison County, Kenny Pritchett in Morgan County and myself. I served as the Sheriff of Oconee County for 28 of those 43 years.

I don't believe in "implementing programs" as a law enforcement strategy. "Implementing programs" is a buzz phrase for "give us more money and we might get results." That isn't a strategy at all, that is a cop out. We had a simple program, one that was easy to remember and didn't have a lot of flash or buzzwords to remember when we talked about it. We were a results driven organization. We aggressively pursued criminals and held them accountable for committing crimes, and we worked with the community to do it. Oconee County citizens believed in our mission and supported us across the board. We scoured the earth looking for people who did our citizens wrong and held them accountable. Our violent crime arrest rate was 100% for 28 years....we had ZERO unsolved murders. We put a team on every single murder we had and stayed on it until it was resolved. Excuses were not tolerated and none were accepted. People were put in place that could get results legally and they rose to the challenge each and every time. Overtime, resources--whatever it took--were used and used wisely. My people knew that there were families who needed closure and defendants who needed their day in court, and we provided that every single time. My name was on the door of the office and people knew I was responsible for results. I couldn't blame someone else, the buck stopped with me. That attitude ran through the entire organization because everyone knew what I expected. Our values were our program. We didn't worry about citizens going about their daily lives, we supported them and kept them safe. If you were stealing, robbing, shooting and looting we did our best to catch you and hold you accountable. That was my program.

As a Sheriff I had to accept responsibility for the entire operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A Sheriff is elected by, and answers directly to, the people of the county. He or she isn't appointed. There is no committee or manager to answer to. I was subjected to the ultimate job review, my reelection, every 4 years. Every 4 years my job performance was put to the people for a vote, and 7 times they chose to keep me in office. I am proud and humbled to be elected to serve my community so many times. You can imagine that people call the Sheriff to solve problems, from water being turned off to having loved ones in prison they miss. From go carts in the road to prowlers around their home at night. The Sheriff has to be there for everyone no matter the time or the weather. I did my best to help everyone that I could, and to make everyone feel important. That was an incredible challenge and I am sure I failed at times, but it wasn't because I didn't try. What do you think of accountability courts, the 50/10 plan, and the impact of a Citizens Advisory Task Force? What’s wrong and right with law enforcement in Athens? How did you adjust the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office The 50/10 plan isn't a plan; it is a problem. I am all to respond to issues of the neighboring county? for increasing the mental health and drug addiction specialists who serve our community, but not at the expense of police In the Bible, Matthew 6:24 tells us that man cannot funding or by replacing police officers. I reject it out of hand serve two masters, and no police chief anywhere can be and if you want examples, look at Minneapolis since they expected to appease a City Council AND a Citizens Advisory started defunding the police. I like accountability courts. I board who, from what I can see, can't even decide on what think they give us a chance to separate those defendants we its mandate is. Asking any police chief to do that is a recipe are mad at from those we are scared of. Accountability courts for failure and an endless stream of police chief candidates give a path for redemption and the vast majority of people staying just long enough to polish up their resumes and move who take advantage of that opportunity are not people we are on to the next big thing. No one asked me except you, but scared of. No Court is perfect and justice means different Athens desperately needs a stable, reliable police chief who things to different people, but I believe in helping anyone who can truly become part of this community and someone who needs help--especially with mental health or drug addiction knows Athens. It doesn’t need to be the next spot for some issues. Many, many families are destroyed by the scourge Chief from somewhere else to rest his hat for a while. Chief of drugs and mental health, and, as the operator of a jail, it is Spruill is transparent, progressive and doing a good job in this wrong that our jails have become the de facto mental health community with outreach, and I think he should be allowed to providers in our counties. Mental health crises and drug run his department with minimal levels of supervision. Give addiction are here to stay, and we need to help lift up these him a chance to build HIS department and then let him lead families. I think the accountability courts are a key factor in it. If he fails, then replace him. But setting him up with an doing so. Paige Otwell at our DA's Office does a great job advisory board tells him that this community has no faith in getting those people where they need to go, and I hope she him and to me, that is an expectation neither he nor I would can continue to do so under the new administration. tolerate. HIGHLIGHT

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James Howard

Independent contractor, Amateur NPC Bodybuilder, Trainer, vocalist

Give us some details on your past experience with the admittance rate, only 10% of the national cases submitted criminal justice system. How did you change? make it to the Supreme Court. I defeated the federal attorney general and his paralegal team. Then I had to beat the 3% In all honesty, I don't think in my youth I held any admittance rate for pro-self defendants. This meant that only notion of a future that extended further than the moment I 3% of self-represented plaintiffs made it before the Supreme was in. My life was fast lane, bright lights. I assumed I had court of the United States. I won 3 Supreme court justices, arrived. I worked and socialized with people others only rec- I needed 4 out of the 9. It was held that my case held merit ognized as celebrities. I grew up on a dirt road in a trailer... but that it was not politically or publicly impactful enough to hogs, chickens. And somehow managed to blunder into an warrant the court's intervention. Hell, it took me about 9 years episode of Miami Vice. As a 21yr old, my head was blown. I to get there anyway. But I won big in my heart and mind. I thought it was the apex. The people and women were only did what 90% of law degree grads will never do. I received seen on tv or in magazines. I don't think I ever planned notice 8wks prior to my release. beyond it. My mindset was much different. Undaunted, I was released with 700 bucks and a bus But in 1995-96, the party came to a halt. I found ticket. In these 14yrs I’ve lived more than I ever have--from myself in serious trouble facing charges that were capital eating dinner with a former Georgia governor, building a peroffences. I would be convicted and sentenced to twenty, serv- sonal training business to competing in national bodybuilding ing ten. My luck ran out. The biggest part about my calamity as a NPC bodybuilding competitor at 44 and winning. I've was I never had to go to prison. I was never placed at the mentored several troubled young men who are doctors and scene according to five witnesses. So, the state wanted me coaches. I've raised public funds to create a business. I’ve to testify against my co-defendants. The deal was all charges written magazine articles, made the front page of my homedropped and my permanent record sealed. I refused, told town newspaper as a musical vocalist. I’ve also appeared them to crank the jury. My co-defendants accepted the state's on Fox news channel 12 in Texas. There's more. deal. The lowest point I've ever felt was my first arrest. I Upon my conviction they were released, funny thing. was 12 or 13. I snuck out of my home with a group of CaucaThe only person that can’t be placed at the scene or iden- sian kids. My family may have been like one out of 5 minority tified committing the acts described was yours truly. And families on east side Athens at this time. I was born in 1969 those identified all walked. I ate ever bit of it, like a solider. just 5yrs after schools had been de-segregated. But I grew up But instead of joining the mayhem, I decided to go about early, ignorant of racism. My grandparents were great folks. educating myself. I wanted to understand. There was much I My entire life I never heard my grandfather use a racist slur. didn't, so I sunk into the study of humanity. War, world history, He spoke to everyone the same, white or black. He looked classic literature, economic, formulation of governments, the- them in the eye. And he had no problems showing you the ology…on and on. If I were not working out or running on the end of a shot gun. But racism itself didn't rear its ugly head yard or in meditation, I was reading, deep in study. My books till middle school for me. That’s where it all changed. That were brought by hand trucks. The only real contact with the night I was caught kissing a white girl, and the police threw outside world were my book deliveries. Six or seven years me to the ground. They handcuffed me and took me to jail. into this life, I decided prison was not it. I fought everyday, All of the other kids and the adults who took us out bought at times. I experienced many horrific things--men losing their us beer and all were let go. lives or, much worse, their manhood. It was a place where only the strong survive. You are reduced to base nature. What do you think about the Black Lives Matter move I decided I was done. My grandparents did not raise ment and defunding the police? me this way. I changed through educating myself. Armed with new information, I had more options. I understood there is a I think its one of the most impactful movements of better way. I vowed to follow my new path. Released in 2007, this generation comparable with the 60s civil rights moveI had no home--my parents had died during this ordeal. To ment in social justice. Private interest groups are the problem top that off, family members had my grandfather placed in a within the system. Defunding is not an answer. Locating nursing home. They had him release power of attorney and political affiliation, community ties, and how they delegate sold our home to the sum of 750k. To which I was excluded. their service to the public is. I feel that social behavior and backgrounds need to What role did educating yourself play in your life? List be checked. Where do ninety percent of these law enforcesome of your highs and lows. ment officers come from? Poor and lower middle -class, where the racial tension is always worse. Defunded no, fire Education created confidence in myself in order to rehire and increased physical requirements, new training is create better circumstances from my seemingly lost occur- needed. There are many, many good people in law enforcerences. I'd have to say me taking on representation of my ment. I dont think you guys understand the gravity of the own case James Howard vs the United States Supreme situation. Its a real life game of thrones. Court is my greatest moment. Where a high school drop out beats the national HIGHLIGHT




dustin kirby Give us some examples of what motivated you to start your law firm after leaving the public defender's office? I could have gone to work for a firm, or tried to transition to a civil law practice but Criminal Defense is my passion. No other area of the law deals in such high stakes. Whether a case is a simple misdemeanor or a complex felony, ultimately, we are dealing with people’s freedom. I take that very seriously.

Former public defender/ criminal defense attorney doubt. Often times, unfortunately, the prosecutor is just taking the charge given by the officer, reading a police report, and making it official. They don’t do any additional investigation. Now we have three layers of officials who have put their stamp on the charge before the defendant and his lawyer even come to court. Stopping the boulder becomes harder and harder the further it rolls because incentives and disincentives come into play. If a prosecutor dismisses an aggravated assault charge, his name is on the paper. If the Defendant commits another crime, the public won’t be interested in the details. They will ask, “why didn’t you get this person while you could?”

Public defenders, especially in the Western Circuit, do an incredible job with the work they are asked to do. What I will say is that personal attention and client centered practice is tough when you have a hundred open felony cases. Being in private practice allows me to handle a reduced caseload and give every client the attention they need. One of the drawbacks to private practice, though, is The problem is this: a person facing an aggravated having to turn away people that can’t pay. Focusing on bills assault charge is looking at a possible sentence of 25 years can be much less interesting than trying cases. in prison, plus all of the consequences of a felony conviction. The same person facing a reckless conduct charge What advice would you offer others to avoid a hassle faces 12 months. While the prosecutor may not have over with the law? charged the case to “intimidate a plea deal,” when he or Unfortunately, there are certain communities that she finally realizes that the case isn’t any good and offers are going to be policed much more strenuously than others. a misdemeanor to 12 months on probation, people take it. If you live in or are a member of one of these communities, That is often a completely rational decision. Would you risk you are much more likely to come into contact with the going to trial, even if you were innocent, knowing you could police. Something that I wish more people knew is how go to jail for 25 years? Anyone who says they would never many laws there actually are and how easy it is for police admit to something that they didn’t do has never watched to find an infraction. If I had one piece of advice for people that boulder coming at them. to avoid a hassle it is to follow traffic laws. I stop at every stop sign and every red light before I turn. I set my cruise To answer the second question: I think that the failcontrol and make a note of where my car is every time I go ure to appropriately charge cases has had a terrible effect under a yellow light. It’s a bizarre routine but I have seen on what I believe should be the goals of the Criminal Justice too many situations where a traffic stop led to a very bad system. It clogs up the system while everyone tries to figure situation. out whether a case is legitimate, it prevents prosecutors from focusing on serious threats to the community, and it As a former public defender how often did you see results in people pleading to things that they should otherprosecutors overcharging defendants in order to intimi- wise be fighting. It also prevents prosecutors and judges date a plea deal? What do you think about this and how from hearing what the facts of their cases actually are. has it impacted the justice system? Do you have an opinion of the accountability courts? I think framing this as a conscious choice by prose- What effect do you think this has on the recidivism cutors to “intimidate a plea deal” is a little over simplistic. The rate? criminal justice system is driven by inertia. A police officer’s I think accountability courts can be wonderful and role is to gather information, decide if the law was broken, and make an arrest if it is warranted. He also decides what horrific at the same time. On the one hand, where people the particular charge will be, and this begins a process that are ready to help themselves, they can be invaluable in can alter the course of someone’s life. There are enough treating underlying problems that bring people into convague words and questions of intent in criminal statutes tact with the system. They can be flexible and tailored to that the same actions can be interpreted very differently. individual defendants and can actually achieve the goal of Where one officer sees an aggravated assault (a felony) rehabilitation. That being said, I am a purist in what I think another might see reckless conduct (a misdemeanor). Once our criminal justice system was designed for. Judges are the arrest is made, a judge determines if there is probable not social workers and neither are prosecutors or defense cause to sign the warrant. This is an extremely low level of attorneys. Mixing the two can be dangerous. proof. Next, it is the prosecutor’s job to determine if there is enough evidence to prove the charge beyond a reasonable HIGHLIGHT



“Run…Run! The PattyRollers Catch You!” By: Troy Copeland Run…run; de patty-roller catch you. Run….run, it's almost day Run…run, de patty-roller catch you. Run…run, and try to get away. 19th Century Plantation Song “Fuck tha Police!” roared concert crowds. “Fuck tha Police!” fifteen-inch woofers thundered, rattling windows along narrow city streets. When the riots of ’92 broke, bloodied, and burned much of Los Angeles in response to the acquittal of the law enforcement officers responsible for relentlessly beating unarmed black motorist Rodney King, many of my friends and I--black male teens from a range of socio-economic backgrounds--muttered grimly in accord, “Fuck tha Police.” Some songs become anthems. This one, written and performed by young hip hop artists more than a generation ago, spoke for millions whose communities have historically been terrorized by incidents of excessive and abusive law enforcement. That’s unfortunate. Many individuals in law enforcement are most gallant. I’ve taught several of them and I know them to be among the best or most exemplary persons. “To protect and serve”—a motto adopted by the Los Angeles Police Department in 1963—was appropriated by many other departments across the country. And since most contemporary police officers are committed to the motto, risking their lives for comparably meager pay and little thanks, they don’t all deserve such antipathy. As a matter of fact, the sustainable peace and stability of all communities—even if not especially many of those which have been historically oppressed and/or neglected— depends largely on constructive collaboration between citizens and their local police. This is why the enduring presence of and tolerance for dangerous individuals in law enforcement—individuals prone to brutalize African Americans and other marginalized minorities with excessive, deadly violence--is such a blight on municipalities. With roots in historically classist and racist notions of normality and the desperate need to preserve it, the ongoing attempt to excuse or justify their actions subverts the potential for constructive accord between citizens and those who submit to the responsibility of “protecting and serving” them. This results in volatility. Citizens statistically prone to this kind of abuse begin to suspect any police officer and the system which excuses the likelihood of their excesses of being monstrous. “Fuck tha police…” many curse. Again, this is unfortunate. It’s not the kind of society

we want to live in. But we know the story responsible for the sentiment all too well. One day an unarmed suspect moves suspiciously—even looks suspicious—and too often ends up dead at the hands of yet another officer predisposed to using deadly force. Sometimes these suspects are children, even. However, as is also too often the case, a grand jury exonerates the killing--the event never goes to trial. And, in every case, the officer has purportedly responded to the “articulable, reasonable suspicion” of a threat within what is always already presumed to be a hostile condition. Accordingly, the victim might have been holding a gun rather than a cell phone or a toy, might have been high on mania inducing and strength enhancing narcotics, and might have been faster, stronger, and more aggressive than most citizens. Perhaps due to what the “articulable reasonable” justification for violence warrants, one might have to assume that the fault lies with what many call “genetics,” even. The unnatural ability… the proclivity for aggression and violence, too, are myths of racial differences. The hypothetical victim is “black,” after all. Now race is never stated as justification for the killing. That’s what the media attempting to represent concerns of historically oppressed communities generally implies, though. Reporters may ask the question outright: Would this killing have seemed as reasonable or necessary had the slain been white? But why does the killing of an unarmed person of African descent typically warrant that kind of suspicion? Remember, there remains what is popularly characterized as a tenuous if not explosive relationship between some communities and police departments. To whatever degree it is or isn’t ultimately substantiated, many perceive that a kind of cold war endures between such departments and African American communities. I’ve attempted to explain it, striving to provide understanding for that narrative. However, if that tension makes the officer’s “articulable reasonable suspicion” of mortal danger from random black citizens credible, a society that values all lives has to also suspect the possibility of each officer’s irrational, if not malicious, preemption. It has to objectively question the degree to which deadly force is the only “reasonable” option regardless of how well the



suspicion is “articulated.” When a citizen dies unnecessarily at the hands of law enforcement, those who empathize with the victim see a person—an individual—destroyed. As the inestimable, inherent value of personhood remains the cornerstone for moral and ethical judgement in and across most cultures, outrage grows out of whatever extent it seems that acknowledgement of the victim’s personhood was suspended and the degree to which our shared notion of justice encourages and dismisses it. However, to those who fail to empathize, the victim is not a person so much as part of a situation that involves an officer of the law. Accordingly, the officer of the law is also not so much a person as a professional representing a system designed to normalize or standardize situations—especially those perceived to be tenuous and volatile. He or she has to make every encounter something the broader culture and those who hold the power within it can understand or accept. If he or she doesn’t, it threatens far more than the officer involved. It challenges what she or he represents-the shared ideal of what people who claim the culture as their own can or should expect out of one another to feel safe, etc. Accordingly, the victim might have been a legally innocent person or, at the very least, not a person who posed a peril worthy of deadly force. But that doesn’t matter. Likewise, the responsible cop might or might not have been a racist among several racists in any given department. Maybe he or she was simply reckless. Maybe he or she was simply a coward. But that doesn’t matter, either. Neither matters to those primarily concerned with the ideal of “law and order” by any means. What matters to them is the shared ideal of what they think should be normal behavior in any situation. At least as much as law, order supersedes the inherent value of personhood and its wide, variable range of performances as the cornerstone of ethics or justice. And this is a problem. I could tell you that this problem is implied by design--that it is what some call a systemic issue. But you need to know a bit more than most about the origin of American policing to understand. What was originally, essentially a community volunteer’s job, policing as we know it became a centralized, bureaucratic, professional public service in mostly northern cities during the early to mid 19th Century. And, honestly, it was more of a response to the

“articulable reasonable” perception of “disorder” amidst the growing industrialization of thriving urban centers than any credible proof of a rising, sweeping tide of criminal activity. Before I knew that, I never thought to question why politicians of a certain rhetorical species tend to tout support for big budget, right-at-all-costs policing as “law and order.” Think about that. What defines the order that law enforcement doesn’t already entail? That takes us back to what I was saying about preserving normalcy/ normality and the cultural expectations that accompany it. Dr. Gary Potter of Eastern Kentucky University’s School of Justice Studies explains research indicating how modern police forces developed as publicly funded strong arms of commercial/industrial interests: “These economic interests had a greater interest in social control than crime control. Private and for-profit policing was too disorganized and too crime-specific to fulfill these needs. The emerging commercial elites needed a mechanism to insure a stable and orderly work force, a stable and orderly environment for the conduct of business, and the maintenance of what they referred to as the "collective good." Accordingly, “order,” then, has always been about normalizing or preserving behavioral standards that most expediently mediate a compliant, highly hierarchical working populace organized according to class differences and an environment most conducive to thriving markets and commercial activity. Potter goes on to argue, “Defining social control as crime control was accomplished by raising the specter of the ‘dangerous classes.’ The suggestion was that public drunkenness, crime, hooliganism, political protests and worker ‘riots’ were the products of a biologically inferior, morally intemperate, unskilled and uneducated underclass.” In the Northern cities, this “underclass” was largely comprised of destitute European immigrants crowding into ethnically homogenous neighborhoods desperate for access to the “American Dream.” Towards the end of the 1800s, these workers were routinely targeted with preemptive force and violence for attempts to organize and execute labor strikes for fair wages and safer working conditions. In the South, of course, and all over a nation where the defeated Confederacy’s influence would spread like crazed hounds on the trail of emigrating freedmen, the underclass—


the “dangerous classes” referenced enslaved people of African descent. The notorious Slave Patrols throughout the South were created to enforce white supremacy. Organized to hunt and capture those fleeing bondage, to organize the terror necessary for discouraging slave revolts, and to enforce the whims of plantation law, the “paddyrollers” or “patty rollers” as enslaved people tended to call them, evolved with the nation’s and region’s struggle to come to ethical terms with the humanity of persons of African descent—a humanity that could only, if ever, be implied or inferred to the degree that people of African descent were first deemed controlled, subservient…orderly. One cannot, perhaps, overstate the fact that insubordination or resistance to white supremacy by black people suggested dangerous exceptionality. It was a kind of individuality perceived to be pathological rather than the presumed “state of nature” disposition upon which the nation’s founders engineered our democracy. For example, white supremacists considered Drapetomania a malady of the mind that compelled enslaved people to run away in pursuit of freedom, after all. And the so-called disease Dysaethesia Aethiopica’s symptoms were defined as disobedience, insolence, and a general refusal to “work.” The threat of this “abnormality”—this perceived challenge to the efficiency and expediency of production and trade—defined, by contrast, order wherever it emerged. And, as in the North, where the control of European immigrants was concerned, Southern elites developed slave patrols into police departments to resist and stifle situations that seemed reflective of (or conducive to) said pathologies. Whether European immigrants or African American freedmen, the “dangerous classes” were typically poor. And any situation in which those who actually or perceptibly represented them while in conflict with those championing the interests of the economic elite and the inflexible hierarchy from which they derived and sustained their privileged access to power would be deemed anarchic— not necessarily illegal, but disruptive to the idea of order and the relationships between people that order normalizes. When an unarmed citizen is killed by the angels of “law and order,” no crime has necessarily been proven. And it doesn’t have to be. He or she only has to appear to pose an “articulable, reasonable suspicion” of a threat to the officer. Thus, the mere appearance of insurrection—any act that can be interpreted as an attempt to subvert order--may seem, to “bad cops” and those who feel compelled to defend them, a killing offense. “Nothing personal,” the famous line from movies about organized crime have popularized. “It’s just business.”

Constitution calls “the general welfare” and the necessary order required to undergird and perpetuate it. Only our many unsung, heroic law enforcement officers have successfully answered the call to withstand the peril by providing a sane, just, and sustainable order. Thus decent citizens are deeply thankful for and appreciative of them. However, this discussion has attempted to explore and highlight the cultural origins of the mindset vigorously and obtusely allowing (if not encouraging) “bad cops” to operate with impunity. I can’t prove that all bad cops are white supremacists or racists. That’s another conversation. We might, however, assume that there are narcissists, sociopaths, and others who have no business wielding state sanctioned force—that they are drawn to law enforcement as they are to education, clergy, medicine and other professions. We might assume that, perhaps, normalized white supremacist and racist presumptions about some demographics allow (if not encourage) bad cops to abuse their authority. In so doing, we might consider why those still implicitly recognized as America’s “dangerous class” are disproportionately people of African descent. For example, according to data from the National Violent Death Reporting System as presented by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, blacks are 2.8 times more likely than whites to be killed by law enforcement while simultaneously most likely unarmed. Seriously. Of African Americans killed by law enforcement, 14.8% are unarmed. By comparison, 9.4% of white Americans are. If for no other reason, this provides a legitimate basis for relentless critical investigation and meaningful reform. In collaboration with police departments, citizens in every community have a responsibility to further the development of law enforcement policy which protects and serves the humanity we share with those who protect and serve us. Together, we must simultaneously identify and purge departments of those who make a pretense and scandal of their vows. We can begin to do so by acknowledging problems in the inherited ideal of “order” that tends to grant monsters invisibility and immunity. That said, the need to critique our nation’s discourse on “order” does not condemn or attempt to discredit law nor the need to enforce it, however. Criminality, its causes, and potential remedies have inspired and continue to deserve essays of their own. However, though our social contract heritage requires that we be a nation of laws, the complementary idea of order—an idea we mostly create and shape with the shared experiences of culture, not suffrage and legislation—cannot be esteemed at the expense of humanity. To whatever degree it is—to whatever degree we fail to recognize that a highly traditional concept of civic order largely derives from the need to maintain a demonstrably classist and racist status quo--we invite and encourage pathology. We embody it. And those who would exploit that perversity with state sanctioned violence only perform the lengths to which we are all inhumane--"articulable and reasonable" though the performance of that inhumanity may seem.

Too easily lost in all of this, however, is the fact that, regardless of how they began, police departments as a whole have evolved over the last 150 years or so. And the work most officers continue to perform in all communities throughout the nation is indisputably and indispensably good. There are actual, innumerable threats to a more person-centered concept of what the




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Letter to the Publisher: Mayor Kelly Girtz Complexity can be interesting. It makes for great art, whether the layers of rhythm and melody in a Charles Mingus composition, the waves of imagery in Anne Sexton’s poems, or the cascade of memory and emotion that come from a story like James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues.” In the public policy arena, though, complexity can make for challenging work, and there may be no area of public policy in the United States more challenging than the criminal justice system. To offer a current illustration: the writer Eric Schlosser (of Fast Food Nation fame) has been working on a book about the U.S. prison system for fifteen years. Fifteen years. His last book, about nuclear arms, didn’t take that long. So, when actual rocket science is an easy topic compared to an analysis of just one piece of the criminal justice system, you know you’re in for a deep-dive if you want to work in that area. Nothing we do – at least in local government is more impactful, whether you’re counting dollars or measuring quality of life. The Athens-Clarke County general fund – the things funded via local property taxes and other sources – are more than 40 percent consumed by just the core local elements of the criminal justice system. The police department, the sheriff’s department, the courts, and district attorney, solicitor, public defense, and probation account for more than $60 million of the $140 million annual budget of Athens-Clarke. And just as significantly, all of those are independently managed offices, with either appointed or elected officials that can have equally independent thoughts about how to operate their units, and how they fit into the larger puzzle of the system. Fortunately, we have been in an increasingly thoughtful and collaborative environment over the last decade-plus. We have instituted and funded accountability courts, the Diversion Center, stronger pre-trial monitoring, Mental Health Co-Responder Units pairing social workers with officers. Just in the last two years, principals within the local system have been meeting regularly, and the County Commission approved funds to ensure that our data management systems are more comprehensive, transparent, and accessible to the public. Now, newly elected District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez and Sheriff John Q. Williams bring even more new energy and good ideas to the local scene.

thereby reduce the burden on the system. It has been clear to analysts and researchers for years that having greater opportunities in life create circumstances in which crime is reduced. Real access to good food, healthcare, safe places to play, and education all mean that crime goes down. It is easy to figure out where crimes are more and less likely to occur. Look for well-resourced places, and you will generally find low levels of crime. Look for places where people are living on the margins, and you will find higher levels of crime. So, while the “criminal justice system” is the focus of this issue of Highlight, it is necessary to acknowledge that the system is rooted in society, with all its beauty and its ills, and it is not a system that is isolated within itself. This year, to work with a full understanding of the system’s connection to our broader context, the County Commission approved creation of a new Safety and Justice Administrator, whose office will be focused on both ensuring that the system reforms necessary are underway in policing, supervision, incarceration, and similar work - monitoring those accused or convicted in the most appropriate way to reduce further crime, providing ideal training to staff members, and expanding restorative justice opportunities to young offenders, but also looking at “upstream” preventative activities that ensure that the system will be less occupied with criminal activity. That may mean more specific focus on youth development for middle school-aged residents, for example. That is both the time when many young people find a fork in the road of life directions, and also an area where recent Annie E. Casey Foundation data has demonstrated that young Athenians are struggling academically. It could also mean better supports for those citizens returning from supervision or incarceration, and wanting to turn a new page in life, but unable to easily find employment or higher education. While the road ahead is long, and the volume of needs must be acknowledged, there is every reason to celebrate a commitment from the Athens-Clarke County community for momentum toward better work and more equitable outcomes from both the central pieces of the criminal justice system, along with the circumstances that shape and influence it.

As complex as the system is, with all its parts and pieces, its various players and funding streams, Kelly Girtz there is something wonderfully simple to understand Mayor of Athens, Ga. too. And that is that we know how to reduce crime, and HIGHLIGHT 27


Athens Eats / meals on wheels

For a day we followed Patrick Howard. One of seventeen “Neighborhood Leaders” in the Meals on Wheels Program hosted by Family Connections. Mr. Howard told us his favorite thing about being a neighborhood leader was the opportunity to learn the needs of his neighbors. People he grew up with in the Fowler Dr. Prosperity Zone. He's also helped residents find assistance during covid-19. For more ways to get involved I encourage readers to go to fc-cis.org/get-involved.

At hens Al lia nce Coalit ion Vol un t eer Cl e anup

Once every two weeks the Athens Alliance Coalition host a community clean up. The group covers over 30 homeless camps scattered across Athens. Director of AAC Charles Hardy made it clear that the homeless problem in Athens requires more community collaboration to see a real difference. For more go to https:// alliancecoalitionllc.com/


28 30

Accpd citizens police academy

On April 13, 2021 Athens Clarke County Police Department started the Citizens Police Academy. Classes are every Tuesday from 6:30 pm to 9:00 pm for twelve weeks. With the goal of giving citizens access to how officers train to serve the Athens community. The courses range from deescalation, avoidance, tactical decisions, implicit bias training to learning how to operate a taser. This different point of view may offer individuals who may want to participate or give feedback on ACCPD's performance. For more information go to https://www. accgov.com/7389/Citizen-Police-Academy

Modern Pathways to recovery Grand Opening

People Living in Recovery recently partnered with Modern Pathways to Recovery in opening a housing unit available for men recently released from prison. Residents have the opportunity to make a plan in a supportive space to get back on their feet. They are provided transportation to and from work, counseling sessions at the Advantage Homeless Day Service Center, or to enjoy hobbies like fishing. Shane Sims Director of P.L.R told us they are looking to partner with MPR to open another facility to help those during the COVID-19 Pandemic.


SB 202 A Hateful Political Power Grab As I’ve been following the discourse of the Omnibus Election Reform Bill SB 202, I realize that we are witnessing a battle between what is fact and what is hyperbole. This often seems to be the case within the sphere of political theatre. With the strappings of modernday society and millions of distractions, one can easily be cajoled into accepting hyperbole from sources we think we can trust. The issue is when the elected officials, who by right may seem to be mostly trusted to deliver what is the truth by nature of their most recent election, begin to stretch the truth into hyperbole for the sake of party line politics. Or for short, lie. Now I’m sure that whatever they’re saying the bill does, it does but you have read what they are leaving out to see what’s really going on. Now, I make it a point--to the best of my ability--to take the time to research what I discuss. I study what I need to know to make informed decisions on behalf of the voters in Athens. I don’t expect everyone to be able to do this, and it’s part of my job as I interpret it. Like I always say, I’m not complaining; I’m just describing. The bill has thousands of lines and, I think, is around 93 pages long. However, it doesn’t take long before we see the first political power grab. Below you will find sections of sentences and paragraphs taken directly from the bill as well as my reflections and responses to each. A line thru text indicates what has been taken out of existing law and an underlined text marks what has been added: 184 (a) There is created a state board to be known as the State Election Board, to be composed 185 of the Secretary of State a chairperson elected by the General Assembly Why is this important? Well, as we saw Georgia voting blue in the 3 last statewide elections, this is a defensive move to remove authority away from a potential elected Democratic Secretary of State in view of the fact that the General Assembly will possibly remain in Republican control based on this year’s gerrymandering and redistricting. This directly removes the authority from the people of the state and puts it in the hands of a few elected officials. Then they added this local takeover language: 267 SECTION 6. 268 Said chapter is further amended in Code Section 21-2-33.1, relating to enforcement of 269 chapter, by adding new subsections to read as follows: 270 "(f) After following the procedures set forth in Code Section 21-2-33.2, the State Election 271 Board may suspend county or municipal superintendents and appoint an individual to serve 272 as the temporary superintendent in a jurisdiction…” So, after subverting the will of the citizens of this state by taking authority away from a duly elected official, they empower their political appointee who

has no accountability as an elected official to be able to replace other duly elected officials which serve on our local elections boards. Remember that a previous administration tried this with our local school boards and it was resoundingly rejected by the voters statewide. Now, going onto another of myriad reasons, this is a voter suppression bill and not an election security bill as touted. We see a faint shift from the sinister to the almostcomical-if-it-wasn’t-so-hateful part of SB 202 where it literally criminalizes being a Good Samaritan: 1872 "(a) No person shall solicit votes in any manner or by any means or method, nor shall any 1873 person distribute or display any campaign material, nor shall any person give, offer to give, 1874 or participate in the giving of any money or gifts, including, but not limited to, food and 1875 drink, to an elector, nor shall any person solicit signatures for any petition, nor shall any 1876 person, other than election officials discharging their duties, establish or set up any tables 1877 or booths on any day in which ballots are being cast: 1878 (1) Within 150 feet of the outer edge of any building within which a polling place is 1879 established; Remember that existing code is there as written and new code is underlined. We are not making this up. Here it is in black and white. The bill criminalizes offering water or food to people in line to vote. So, you already had the law prohibiting campaigning within 150 feet in the code. Why add no food and no water? Those people need some New Testament if you ask me. While these are just a few examples where the truth is stretched thin in regards to election law in Georgia, there are many more. Putting a drop box in every county is great but limiting them in others is not. Making all the rules the same across the state is a fine talking point but really doesn’t matter because we can’t vote anywhere else because they refuse to allow it. This is not an election security bill as much as it is a voter turnout bill. Policy based on lies is sure to crumble like castles made of sand when voters see what is happening. Power to the people comes from education of the electorate, and I’d rather more votes be counted than less. Don’t let them stop us. Vote. Spencer Frye State Representative District 118



The truth on sb202 and how it works As has been widely reported in the news, Senate Bill 202 – the Election Integrity Act – recently passed the House and Senate and has now been signed by the Governor into law. Over the last few days, we saw the MLB pull its All-Star Game out of Atlanta in response to the bill in addition to a litany of other responses in the national media and from large corporations. Frankly, those making these decisions appear to have not read the bill and that is why I’m writing today to give more background on this piece of legislation – and to provide facts, not misleading talking points. SB 202 is a 98-page bill that makes changes to our elections process that will make voting in Georgia more accessible and secure. I’ll begin by highlighting the four major points of this bill. 1. It replaces signature match process with driver’s license number on absentee ballots. 2. Adds drop boxes into the law permanently and secures them around the clock. 3. Requires poll workers to continue counting votes until all are tabulated. 4. It also expands early voting access, especially on weekends How many times have you heard that this new law will restrict early voting access or close the polls early? It’s patently false. In fact, SB 202 expands access to early voting statewide by requiring two mandatory Saturday early voting dates and allowing local election officials the option of up to two Sundays during early voting. This would be for every county in the state for the first time, ensuring a minimum total of 17 mandatory days, with the option to expand up to 19. Prior to SB 202, the law merely stated that early voting would take place during “normal business hours.” This law standardizes that time frame as 9-5, but allows counties to expand that time to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voting on Election Day will still take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. as it always has. Counties can have early voting open as long as 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., or 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at minimum. President Biden falsely claimed this law would end voting at 5 p.m. The Washington Post fact-checker gave him “Four Pinocchios” for that claim. This legislation requires all voters to provide a driver’s license or state ID card number to request and submit an absentee ballot – leveling the playing field for absentee and in-person voters and dramatically streamlining the vote-by-mail process by replacing the signature match procedure. Ninety-seven percent of Georgians have a driver’s license, and even more have some form of stateissued ID. The three percent of individuals that do not have a driver’s license, under the federal Help America Vote Act, can provide any state form of identification (student ID, water bill, etc.). This new bill secures drop boxes around the clock by requiring they be placed in early voting locations, accessible when the precinct is open, and actively monitored by an election official. Every county will now

have at least one ballot drop box, where previously 20 percent of Georgia counties did not last cycle. SB 202 establishes, for the first time, that drop boxes are allowed by law, where previously they were permitted only temporarily for the duration of the Governor’s Public Health State of Emergency and only for the 2020 election. There is also a myth that this new legislation will mean a partisan takeover of elections. In fact, the Election Integrity Act makes election oversight less partisan. Before SB 202, the State Board of Elections was chaired by the partisan Secretary of State. Now, a non-partisan official will chair the bipartisan board. There has also been significant controversy around water – and yet again, significant misinformation. Election officials can provide water at self-service stations to voters within the 150 feet threshold around the precinct to those in line. Beyond that 150 feet threshold, campaign and other activities continue to be permitted like they always have been. Campaigns can even have a food truck or a cookout. Additional provisions in the bill: Requires security paper to allow for authentication of ballots. Requires that local election workers tabulate ballots on Election Day without ceasing until tabulation is complete. Mandates for the first time in Georgia law that poll workers are trained. Allows poll workers to work across county lines to ensure all elections offices have the staff and resources to operate efficiently during an election. Mandates adequate voting equipment at every precinct based on population to ensure there are enough machines. If lines exceed one hour, SB 202 requires local elections boards to take action before the next election to reduce wait time in lines.A voter can also use the last four digitals of his or her social security number. Stateissued IDs are available at no cost to all Georgians via their county elections offices. Before closing, Two other provisions of the bill cuts our runoffs to 4 weeks, sparing us all from 9-week runoffs -- the longest in the nation that lasted through Christmas and New Year’s. The bill also includes our legislation to ensure what occurred in Athens-Clarke County last year - where Commissioner Jerry NeSmith tragically passed away, won the election and yet his opponent was seated despite not earning a majority of votes - doesn't happen again. Let me be clear: Any notion that this bill will restrict access to voting is inaccurate. There is so much misinformation and distortion of the facts. I would encourage the public to read the bill in its entirety and to feel free to follow up with me anytime. Houston Gaines State Representative District 117 houston.gaines@house.ga.gov



Minority Business Directory Highlight Magazine intends to help support Black and other minority businesses. Athens is full of entrepreneurs. Call them, tell them Highlight sent you, and support those that make our community a better place. Go to www.highlightathensga.com to find more or register a business. Business Name

Aaron Locksmith LLC A-Z Junk Removal LLC Chalises Heavenly Inspired Creations By Rise Crowning Tier Group Crystal Clear Windows & Gutters Deans Barber Shop Eat - A - Bite Eye Candy Lash & Brow Bar Farm to Neighborhood Food Truck Builders Gansiry Mireya Braids Grizzly Delivery Heaven's Rainbow Learning Center Her Fashion House Jaikal Photography Jimmy's Automotive Repair Key Fit Nutrition / Fitness by Ford Lil Ice Cream Dude Mack & Payne Funeral Home Mcrae Family Dental MEU Radio Nichols Moving & Hauling Payne Construction Commercial Peachy Green Clean Co-op Peerless Financial Group Pops Socks LLC Prominence Hair Company Rashe's Cuisine Ron L Carson Jr. & Associates Sebastian Salon Spiffo Made It Studios The Superior Shine Trend'Setta Kutz Troy Copeland Upscale Services Val's Daughter Vendi Cru Wynn Pressure Washing





Athens, Ga

(706) 765 - 8445

Waste Management Company

Athens, Ga.

(706) 380 - 6380

Luxury Bath & Body Products

Athens, Ga.

(706) 424 - 8963

Custom Cochet Design

Athens, Ga.


Accounting Services

Athens, Ga.

(706) 461 - 7746

Window Service

Athens, Ga.

(706) 614 - 6798

Barber / Beauty Shop

Athens, Ga.

(706) 372 - 9843

Southern Barbeque Catering

Athens, Ga.

(706) 389 - 0846


Athens, Ga.

(706) 619 - 3737

Affordable Fresh Produce

Athens, Ga.

(706) 850 - 4169

Custom Vehicle Engineers

Athens, Ga

(706) 201 - 3982

Hair & Beauty

Athens, Ga.

(706) 540 - 4432

Transportation Services

Athens, Ga.

(706) 352 - 3638

Day Care

Athens, Ga.

(706) 424 - 3178

Custom Handmade Fashion

Athens, Ga.



Athens, Ga.

(678) 249-9523

Auto Repair

Athens, Ga.

(706) 850 - 9298

Fitness & Nutrition Center

3701 Atl HWY St. 37

Athens, GA. 30606

Ice Cream Shop

Athens, Ga.

(706) 308 - 8885

Funeral Home

Athens, Ga.

(706) 543 - 8213


Athens, Ga.

(706) 546-8480

Internet Radio

Athens, Ga


Home Mover

Athens, Ga.

(470) 258-8379


Athens, Ga.

(706) 552 - 3911

Cleaning Services

Athens, Ga.

(706) 248 - 4601

Financial Advisor

Athens, Ga

(404) 901 - 7503

Clothing Brand

Athens, Ga


Hair Vendor

Athens, Ga.


Catering Services

Athens, Ga.


Photography / Videography / Marketing

Athens, Ga.

(770) 744-6403

Hair Salon

Athens, Ga.

(706) 224 - 8114

Audio Production

Athens, Ga.

(706) 207 - 9023

Car Detailing

Athens, Ga.

(706) 248 - 5596

Mobile Barber

Athens, Ga.

(706) 207 - 1519

Copy Editing / Script Writing

Athens, Ga.


Construction Company

Athens, Ga.

(706) 621-1900

Southern Meal Prep/Catering

Athens, Ga

(404) 661 - 6108

Fashion & Beauty Boutique

3701 Atl HWY St 40

(706) 850 - 6636

Home Improvement

Athens, Ga.

(706) 990 - 1919












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