(NewsReady.com) – The FBI estimates some 33,000 gangs practice violence throughout the nation. The State of Georgia estimates 71,000 known gang members are actively recruiting for up to 1,500 gangs statewide. The Georgia Senate advanced Senate Bill 44 through the Judiciary Committee on Monday, February 6, to combat gang activity. The anti-gang legislation proposes stiff penalties to discourage recruitment, adding up to 20 years to sentencing for recruiting.
Governor Brian Kemp (R) is celebrating the measure’s progress as it moves to the full Senate for discussion and debate. In an anti-gang network meeting hosted on Tuesday with Attorney General Chris Carr, Kemp said, “We’re making clear to gangs all across Georgia: come after our children, and we will come after you.”
All Georgians deserve to be safe.
Alongside @GovKemp and members of the General Assembly, we are working to ensure that adults who recruit our kids into a gang are vigorously pursued and aggressively prosecuted. https://t.co/ATPpWTl4TF
— GA AG Chris Carr (@Georgia_AG) February 8, 2023
Carr added that the state wouldn’t tolerate such “activity targeting our schools and our children.” He described how the anti-gang network brings together multiple agencies across jurisdictional boundaries to coordinate and communicate, creating more strategic responses to gang activity. The proposed legislation will help the network prosecute members actively recruiting children into their ranks.
The measure would amend the Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act to increase minimum penalties for those who recruit minors. Additionally, courts could add 5 to 20 years for related convictions, served consecutively. Offenders convicted of recruiting minors into a gang could receive an additional 10 to 20 years for a first offense and as much as 15 to 25 years for subsequent instances.
Judges typically could not suspend the additional sentence time or allow the convict parole during it except under specific conditions. Proponents suggest the penalties could deter recruiters and aid prosecutors by allowing them to cut deals for leniency before sentencing.
One assistant district attorney, Jack Winne, told WRAL News, “Incarcerating gang members does reduce violent gang crime” because it hinders them by taking them out of circulation.
Opponents argue that mandatory sentences exacerbate prison overcrowding, already an issue in Georgia. Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Executive Director Mazie Lynn Guertin said the state’s anti-gang laws already carry harsh penalties, “but they are a politically expedient response to fear.”
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