Media Release 6.24.21

June 24, 2021

Athens-Oconee DA Office One of 10 Selected for National Reform Initiative
Effort will fight crime and strengthen the community by establishing diversion program and providing drug treatment funds under partnership with local community group People Living in Recovery.
Contact: David Lyle,<>

ATHENS and WATKINSVILLE, GA – The Western Circuit District Attorney’s office and local community group People Living in Recovery<> (PLR) today announced that the Vera Institute of Justice had selected them as one of only 10 prosecutor/community partnerships in the nation for participation in the Institute’s Motion for Justice<> initiative.

The goal of the program is to reduce racial disparities in the Athens-Clarke/Oconee criminal legal system by at least 20 percent over the next year.

As part of the program, the Vera Institute for Justice, a leading national organization for reform of the criminal legal system, will assist the District Attorney’s office in establishing a diversion program that will develop procedures for identifying appropriate cases to decline to prosecute. Vera will provide the DA’s office with data analysis, staff training, community engagement support, and policy expertise. Under the initiative, the DA’s office has partnered with PLR, an Athens-based community organization that offers drug treatment services. PLR will co-lead the project along with the District Attorney. In addition, PLR will provide treatment services for participants in the program using funds provided by the Vera Institute.

Western Circuit DA Deborah Gonzalez welcomed the opportunity to bring evidence-based national best practices and outside financial resources to the work of criminal justice reform in Athens-Clarke and Oconee Counties. “This is an important day for our community. We’re implementing proven reforms that promote public safety. We’re strengthening our community by identifying cases where we can offer another chance and treatment to escape the addictions that drive so much crime. And we’re partnering with one of our most respected community leaders to help guide this effort and bring in resources to strengthen the organization he leads,” Gonzalez said.

Shane Sims, the Executive Director of PLR, also expressed his excitement regarding the initiative. “The community knows what we need to address our problems, but we’ve lacked resources. I’m ready to get to work providing services for more people who need another chance to get on the right path. I am so glad that District Attorney Gonzalez has provided the leadership to identify this opportunity to bring resources to the people who need them most. We’re going to get a lot of people the help they need, build the capacity of this organization and strengthen our community,” Sims said.