Pastor Johnny Hunt of First Baptist Church of Woodstock was named to the governor’s newly created Interfaith Council on Friday.
The council was created to offer additional insight on the challenges that face prisoners when they re-enter communities across the state, said Governor’s Office spokesman Brian Robinson.
“Gov. Deal has spent the past several months traveling to various churches and asking for feedback on criminal justice reform initiatives,” Robinson said Friday. “He’s particularly interested in understanding barriers to re-entry, and knows that church communities deal with those issues regularly, from the perspective of family members of prisoners, prisoners and their surrounding communities.”
Hunt has been preaching at First Baptist Church of Woodstock for more than 25 years, and previously worked at churches across North Carolina.
Deal announced the creation of the Interfaith Council on Friday, and said faith communities and religious leaders are critical to the success of prisoner re-entry.
“On any given day, their houses of worship minister to prisoners, give comfort to family members and provide assistance to returning citizens. These council members are on the front lines in Georgia communities, and their perspective and experience are invaluable. I’m grateful for their willingness to serve,” Deal added in a news release.
Robinson said the governor is looking at May for the council’s first meeting, when members of the council will meet with Deal, the Criminal Justice Reform council, commissioners and state agency heads to identify criminal justice reform initiatives that work and ones that need improvement.
“Further, they will discuss how all of these different stakeholders can work together to improve the re-entry program. The members on this council have extensive experience in prison ministry and social justice initiatives. As far as specific proposals, the governor will wait for the first meeting to lay out his vision and ideas, then ask the council to provide feedback and ideas based on that,” Robinson said.
Robinson added many people are more comfortable talking with church leaders than with state agencies when they face challenges upon re-entry into their communities.