John Q. Williams for Sheriff

Our Platform

Emphasize Criminal Justice Reform

We’ve seen since the 1990s that a “tough on crime” stance does not deter crime, and often hardens low-level offenders by forcing them into a cycle of poverty and hopelessness. It’s time to be “smart on crime” by focusing on serious offences and understanding the power of rehabilitation.

  • Support the ACC County Commission’s decision to end cash bail for nonviolent or low-level crimes
    • John has pledged to not accept donations from bail bondsmen, because it would be a conflict of interest.
  • Work with the District Attorney and judicial system to create more diversion paths for nonviolent, low-level, or youth offenders
  • Increase the amount of inmate programs in the jail designed to prevent recidivism
    • Workforce skill development
    • Spiritual development
    • Educational opportunities
    • Increase partnerships within the community in order to create high-quality work opportunities for well-adjusted inmates.
  • Create a culture that respects people’s rights and needs
    • Make items available to inmates for purchase more affordable
    • Reduce cost of phone calls to family
  • Address the connections between poverty, drug addiction, isolation and crime

Improve Department Policies and Introduce Fresh Ideas

A 2018 audit of the Clarke County Sheriff’s Department revealed deep institutional problems including low morale, high turnover, low standards of training, and inefficient hiring practices. Law enforcement agencies around the country currently face many of these problems, but we can’t keep doing the same things and expecting different results. Athens Politics Nerd has a great explainer of the audit and it also outlines many of the problems that plague the Sheriff’s Office, most of which can be traced to a poor workplace culture and problematic decisions by the leadership team.

  • Implement changes in policy that will help department staff feel more valued and respected. A few include:
    • End sick leave policy that requires a doctor’s note for every absence
    • Rotate duties so that new deputies aren’t stuck doing the most difficult and grueling work
  • Convene a policy review and input board composed of deputies and civilian staff at all levels
  • Introduce new training programs similar to programs that John has helped to implement at the Athens-Clarke County Police Department.
  • Increase joint-training between the Clarke County Sheriff’s Department, the Athens-Clarke County Police Department, and the University of Georgia Police Department.
  • Create more training, community interaction, educational, and conference travel opportunities for Sheriff’s Department staff and deputies.
  • Streamline hiring practices and make incentives program more efficient
  • Speak with employees at all levels, as well as inmates, to better understand how ground-level problems can be addressed.
  • Improve medical facilities at the Clarke County Jail to reduce intake rejections on the grounds of small health issues like intoxication, which will save deputy time and taxpayer dollars.
  • Create a financial advisor position that would seek out and write applications for grants, among other duties.

Develop a Culture of Proactivity, Transparency and Outreach

For too long, the Sheriff’s Department has allowed its low profile to act as a cover, as opposed to being accountable and transparent to the public that it serves.

  • Commit to radical transparency
    • Any policy changes affecting the public will be announced in a forthright manner
    • Tragic incidents like an inmate’s death will be reported to the public as quickly as possible, along with any investigative findings
    • Admit to mistakes and wrongdoings
  • Request that an additional audit be made near the end of John’s first term in office to evaluate changes that have been made, and also to identify progress that has been made towards addressing problems outlined in the 2018 audit as well as previous audits.
  • Participate in more public outreach events in order to cultivate a real, lasting relationship
    • Work with schools to appear at career fairs and in classrooms to advertise the Sheriff’s Office as a potential career option.
    • Foster a recruiting system that will result in the hiring of new deputies that are from the communities they will serve and reflect the diversity of those communities.
  • Coordinate regional crime fighting initiatives with other counties as the top law enforcement official in Clarke County
    • Sex trafficking, drug trafficking, and gang violence doesn’t stop at the county line
  • Implement changes recommended by the Obama Administration’s “President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing”
    • Many changes involve procedures related to public outreach, sensitivity training, and transparency.

Guarantee a Safe Community for All

In July 2018, the Sheriff’s Department quietly changed its policy to begin holding Athens-Clarke County residents for up to an additional 48 hours in order to honor Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainers, which are not legally binding. This means that the Sheriff’s Department was holding members of our community to be detained and deported by ICE. This is not acceptable. It is not in the best interest of our community to tear families apart. The Sheriff’s Department needs to put the people of Clarke County first, not the policies of another agency. It’s important to uphold our promise to protect and serve everyone in Athens-Clarke County, regardless of color, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, or citizenship status.

  • John strongly opposes enrolling the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office into ICE’s 287(g) program.
  • Under John Q. Williams, the Clarke County Sheriff’s Department will not honor ICE detainers unless they are accompanied by a legally-binding judicial order.
    • The decision to honor most ICE detainers without a judicial order is up to the discretion of the department.
    • Honoring ICE detainers sows seeds of mistrust and makes it more difficult to create a safe community.
    • The Sheriff’s Department exists for the sole purpose of ensuring a safe community for all Athens-Clarke County residents, not to enforce federal policies with local tax dollars.
    • Honoring ICE detainers may open up the Sheriff’s Department to lawsuits and civil liabilities.
  • Require “Bias in Policing” training for all new deputies.
  • Work to incorporate more resources for Spanish-speaking residents of Clarke County, particularly those that have been the victim of a crime
  • Serve warrants and protective orders in a timely manner to ensure the safety of victims of crime or domestic violence.
  • Work with the District Attorney and judicial system to protect victims of domestic violence and insure that firearms stay out of the hands of domestic abusers.

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