Former Gov. Nathan Deal continues to be recognized for his work in justice reform during his time in office.
In February 2019, the Georgia House of Representatives voted to name the state’s first building dedicated solely to the judiciary the Nathan Deal Judicial Center. It sits at 330 Capitol Ave. S.E., Atlanta.
Deal, Georgia Supreme Court Justices and several others visited the building Wednesday morning for a tour. They also heard from a former prison inmate, William Rutledge, and saw some of the furniture in the building made by inmates from three Georgia Department of Corrections facilities.
At $130 million, the building is intended to last 100 years, which was Deal’s vision when he secured the funding and won the legislature’s support for it. The building is now owned and managed by the Georgia Building Authority, though different courts lease it.
The building came in $1 million under budget, but what helps it stand out is that a number of pieces of furniture were designed and constructed by Georgia prison inmates through Georgia Correctional Industries.
“I think that is indicative of the many skills those in our prison system have if we take the time and make the effort to give them further enrichment of those skills,” Deal said. “I think that is truly rehabilitation in its highest order is to not only have individuals serve time the courts have imposed, but in the process to use that time to make themselves a better person because virtually all of them will be paroled at some point in time.”
Deal further said he believes it is good for the state to have former inmates return to the world with skills they can use to attain jobs and to help them be productive, taxpaying citizens.
“I think this is emblematic of all of those reforms that we worked for while I was governor,” Deal said. “I have so many people to thank and certainly Justice Michael Boggs is one of those because he was the consistent co-chair of the Criminal Justice Reform Commission from its very inception. He and many other have worked really hard to get those reforms passed ... and I can’t think of a better illustration of all of that coming together than in this facility.”
Plans for the new building were in the works for more than a decade. Chief Justice Harold Melton said there were several reasons a new building was needed, including for security reasons, as well as the fact that Georgia’s appellate courts had been sharing building space with the executive branch since 1956.
The new building is now further from the street and has separate elevator banks so that judges don’t have to ride with litigants during oral arguments, for example. In total, the building is six stories tall, 215,000 square feet, and will house the state’s two appellate courts and the new statewide Business Court.
Supreme Court Justices, Court of Appeals Judges and their staff moved into their new offices inside the building in December. Inmates from Ware State Prison, Montgomery State Prison and Hancock State Prison worked on the furniture inside.
“This is a justice building, but we also have to give opportunity,” Commissioner for the Georgia Department of Corrections Timothy C. Ward said.