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Georgia leads the way nationally when it comes to promoting and funding the expansion of accountability courts (commonly called drug courts or mental health courts). The fact that the effort to expand such courts in Georgia was spearheaded by Republican Governor Nathan Deal is surprising to some. This article provides a peek behind the curtain at the massive judicial and political effort to make accountability courts an essential part of criminal justice reform in the State of Georgia.

The article begins with a brief look at the history of accountability courts in Georgia, specifically focusing on several Superior Court Judges who were pioneers in establishing such courts. One of those judges was Jason Deal whose father, then Congressman Nathan Deal, would often visit Judge Deal's court. The article, sourcing primarily interviews from several Superior Court Judges involved in the formation of the Georgia Council of Accountability Courts (GCAC), provides an account of how approximately six Superior Court Judges, with the support of newly elected Governor Deal and then Speaker of the House David Ralston, developed a plan. This plan was ultimately adopted by the Georgia Legislature to fund accountability courts in Georgia on a grand scale. The article also explains the events that led to the creation of GCAC, a nationally unique governing body for Georgia's accountability courts. A synopsis of GCAC operating procedures and certifications is provided as it relates to the several types of accountability courts now codified in Georgia.

Most importantly, the article provides insight from several judges who operate accountability courts in Georgia. Specifically, the article provides first‑hand accounts of the operations of accountability courts from the following judges: Judge Jason J. Deal of the Northeastern Judicial Circuit; Chief Judge Brenda S. Weaver of the Appalachian Judicial Circuit; Chief Judge D. Scott Smith of the Cherokee Judicial Circuit; Chief Judge T. Craig Earnest of the Pataula Judicial Circuit; Judge Katherine K. Lumsden of the Houston Judicial Circuit; Judge Melanie B. Cross of the Tifton Judicial Circuit; Judge Brian A. McDaniel of the Southern Judicial Circuit, and; Georgia Supreme Court Justice Verda M. Colvin, formerly of the Macon Judicial Circuit. These jurists demonstrate an unwavering commitment to public service and offer personal testimonials as to the manner in which accountability courts touch the lives of Georgians who are in desperate need of help.

Finally, the article touches on the financial implications flowing from Georgia's support of accountability courts. The legislature and Governor Brian Kemp continue to be very supportive of accountability courts. Taylor Jones, the Executive Director of GCAC, has been instrumental in growing GCAC and garnering Georgia’s continued commitment to accountability courts. As a result, Georgia has received a financial windfall because of the success of the courts in terms of reduced recidivism, reduction in the costs of imprisonment, and a reduction in societal costs associated with untreated substance abuse and/or mental health issues. Millions of dollars have been saved, families have been restored, and Georgia has shown other states the benefit of promoting accountability courts because of Georgia's efforts in providing treatment, when appropriate, to those charged with criminal offenses.

—Judge W. James Sizemore, Jr.