Brought before the Georgia General Assembly earlier this year, Senate Bill 360 – also known as Colton’s Law – was passed unanimously by the State Senate and moves on to the House. Written by Brunswick Senator Shelia McNeill (District 3), it was co-sponsored by Senators Kennedy (District 18), Beach (District 21), Hickman (District 4) and Miller (District 49), among others. Named “Colton’s Law” for a disabled child from Senator McNeill’s district who was beaten, and his abuser never served jail time. Currently, those found guilty of first or second-degree child abuse can serve anywhere from one to 20 years in prison, with no required jail time for third-degree. Colton's Law ups increases those penalties if the abused child is disabled. Those found guilty of abusing a child with special needs would serve a minimum of ten years and a maximum of 30.
As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Brian Strickland worked with Senator McNeil to perfect Senate Bill 360 and get it passed out of committee in order to get it to the floor of the Senate for a vote. Once there, he was proud to cast his vote in its favor – not just for the story behind it – but for three impactful reasons:
As the father of two children, Brian Strickland cannot begin to imagine the horrors abused children must endure – particularly disabled children who may be completely unable to defend themselves. The National Center for Biotechnology Information indicates that children with disabilities are 3.4 times more likely to suffer abuse than children without disabilities. Senator Strickland believes the abusers should be convicted to the full extent of the law and is proud to have a hand in expanding those penalties to protect those who cannot protect themselves and discourage future acts of violence.
As a proposed amendment to Code Section 16-5-102 of the Official Code of Georgia, Colton’s Law also RE-casts the spotlight on the ongoing issue of elder abuse and the exploitation and intimidation of adults with disabilities. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, at least 10% of adults aged 65 and older will experience some form of elder abuse in a given year – most of which at the hand of a caregiver. The same holds true for adults with disabilities – who are two to three times as likely to fall victim to abuse and violence than the general public, making them one of the most harmed groups in the country.
As Co-Chair of the Mental Health Caucus along with Senator Kim Jackson of Dekalb County, Senator Strickland has a particular interest in protecting children with disabilities who also suffer mental health issues. The World Health Organization estimates that up to 20% of children and adolescents worldwide suffer from a disabling mental illness. The caucus is currently working alongside their colleagues in the Senate on House Bill 1013 – which will bring comprehensive reforms to Georgia’s mental health care delivery system.
If you have questions about Colton’s Law or HB 1013, we invite you to call Senator Strickland’s office at 678.583.4865, send an email to email@example.com or message his staff on social media: @StricklandforGA on Twitter, @StricklandforGA on Facebook or @StricklandforGA on Instagram.
In 2023 the Georgia State Senate District 17 will encompass parts of Walton, Newton, Henry, and Morgan with over 150,000 registered voters. Brian Strickland entered his third full term in the Georgia Senate in 2021. Brian, his wife Lindsay, and their two children reside in McDonough, GA. Through Brian’s leadership position at the capitol where he fights for District 17, and all of Georgia, he has impacted Georgia for the better through various executed actions. Not only did Brian support the First Responder bill which aids police, firefighter, and EMS personnel but he was a key player in the passing of the Georgia Criminal Justice reform bills and Georgia Surprise Medical bills. Above and beyond that, Brian labored to bring funding to Southern Crescent Technical College making it one of the top technical schools in Georgia and is constantly raising the bar in the fight against human trafficking.