Deep Center receives grant to transform criminal justice system in Chatham County, lower rates of incarceration

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SAVANNAH, Ga (WSAV) – A local nonprofit is the recipient of a grant aimed at transforming the criminal justice system.

The Deep Center in partnership with the Southern Center for Human Rights, based in metro-Atlanta, announced it has received $30,000 from the Vera Institute of Justice. The funding is part of Vera’s “In Our Backyards” initiative, which is a program committed to lowering the rates of incarceration in small and rural cities.

“If you look in our own backyard at the death of Mr. Brooks over the weekend. If you look in our own backyard at the death of Ahmaud Arbery. We’re seeing that our criminal justice system is failing people left and right,” said Coco Papy, the Director of Development and Communications for the Deep Center.

Coco Papy said Georgia has one of the highest rates of incarceration in the country, with a rate of 970 per 100,000 people. Sarah Minion told News 3 that is one of the reasons Vera has awarded this grant to a community program in Chatham County.

“Often people talk about Atlanta and about the decarceral organizing work that’s happening in the biggest cities, and it’s really important that these movements span across the urban/rural spectrum,” said Sarah Minion, a Campaign Associate for Vera’s In Our Backyards.

The Deep Center also wants to utilize the funds to educate young people on racial disparities in the system and wealth-based detention practices, pertaining to cash bail or cash bonds.

“If you live in poverty, if you simply cannot afford your cash bail, even on something as simple as a nonviolent misdemeanor, you have to stay in jail until your court date. So what it does is it sets up a two-tier system so that if you can afford to get out of jail, you can, and if you cannot, you sit in jail,” said Papy.

The Deep Center wants to encourage Savannah youth to implement policy changes. Minion said the Deep Center is one of 18 organizations in the country to receive this funding.

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