In, Georgia, 1 in 13 adults is under some form of correctional control: either on probation or parole, or behind bars.i This is the highest rate in the nation – the national average is 1 in 31.ii About 1 in 70 Georgia adults are behind bars. Georgia spends more than $1 billion per year on its prison system that houses approximately 53,000 inmates.iii Corrections costs have grown five-fold since 1985.iv Longer sentences have driven Georgia’s prison growth. For instance, the average inmate released in 2009 on a drug possession charge spent 21 months locked up, compared with 10 months in 1990.v

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) says his colleagues need to take a closer look at the cost-effectiveness of their programs, stating: “I don’t think we ought to let public safety depend on getting a bargain basement price, but I think we do have to be conscious of the cost of incarceration.” He added, “I think the dialogue has already started.”

Ralston notes that he is a strong supporter of Georgia’s drug courts, an accountability and treatment approach for substance abuse offenders overseen by a judge.vi He said that cops and prosecutors tell him Georgia needs more discretion in the courtroom and more alternatives to prison.vii

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich urged Georgia policymakers to make improvements in the state’s corrections system in a March 2010 op-ed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution co-authored with former Virginia Attorney General Mark Earley, stating in part:

“If two-thirds of public school students dropped out, or two-thirds of all bridges built collapsed within three years, would citizens tolerate it? The people of Georgia would never stand for that kind of failure. But that is exactly what is happening all across the U.S. in our prison systems. Last year, some 20,000 people were released from Georgia’s prisons to re-enter our communities. If trends of the past decade continue, two-thirds of them will be rearrested within three years. That failure rate is a clear and present threat to public safety. Not only is this revolving door a threat to public safety, but it results in an increasing burden on each and every taxpayer.”viii

In 2012, Georgia tackled these challenges by passing a major reform package. The package prioritizes Georgia’s limited prison space for the most serious offenders by creating a new system of graduated sanctions for burglary, forgery, theft, and simple drug possession. Low-level, first time offenders are punished using community supervision alternatives, and prison space is reserved for more serious and habitual offenders. The reform package also improved probation by, among other things, strengthening the state’s drug treatment programs, accountability courts, and electronic monitoring. The package also improves data collection so that the state may better measure the performance of the criminal justice system. The bill, HB 1176, passed both chambers unanimously (162-0 in the House, 51-0 in the Senate), and was signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal on May 2, 2012.

Levin & Reddy: Conservatives Welcome Eric Holder to the Criminal-Justice-Reform Bandwagon

Right on Crime | August 13, 2013
In this National Review piece, Marc Levin and Vikrant Reddy state: “Since 2010, conservative legislatures in Ohio, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota have passed major criminal-justice-reform packages. In 2007,…

Governors highlight the need, benefits of Justice Reinvestment

Derek M. Cohen | August 12, 2013
Under the burden of growing corrections budgets, state executives and legislators have sought a different strategy for providing public safety and rehabilitating offenders prior to release. Justice reinvestment, a…

Georgia passes juvenile justice reforms

Right on Crime | July 29, 2013
The Georgia House recently passed a juvenile justice reform bill which will save an estimated $85 million over five years and “reduce recidivism by focusing on out-of-home facilities on…

Georgia to lock up fewer young offenders

Right on Crime | May 3, 2013
From Rhonda Cook at the Atlanta Journal Constitution Originally published May 2, 2013 DALTON —With a swipe of his pen, Gov. Nathan Deal set in motion another phase of…

Free Beacon: Taking On Crime

Right on Crime | April 23, 2013
Excerpt from The Washington Free Beacon, originally published April 23, 2013 by Andrew Evans Texas faced a choice in 2007: spend billions on new prisons to house its convicts…

Georgia House passes juvenile justice reform bill

Right on Crime | March 27, 2013
Good news out of Georgia. The Georgia House of Representatives just passed HB 242, the juvenile justice reform bill. It now goes to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature.…

Kelly McCutchen on WGAU 1340AM – Talking Juvenile Justice Reform in Georgia

Right on Crime | March 25, 2013
Listen to this radio interview of Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s Kelly McCutchen talk about juvenile justice reform in Georgia on talk radio station WGAU 1340AM in Georgia. The interview…

Right on Crime Campaign Applauds Unanimous Passage of Juvenile Justice Reforms in the Georgia Senate

Right on Crime | March 22, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 22, 2013 AUSTIN – Today, the Right on Crime campaign congratulated the Georgia Senate for unanimously passing a major juvenile justice reform bill. This legislation…

Newt Gingrich and Kelly McCutchen Op-Ed on Juvenile Justice

Right on Crime | March 20, 2013
Check out this great op-ed by Newt Gingrich and Georgia Public Policy Foundation’s Kelly McCutchen in today’s Marietta, GA newspaper. It’s about how Georgia can make some major reforms…

Georgia State Rep. Jay Neal on Oregon talk radio

Right on Crime | March 18, 2013
Listen to Georgia State Rep. Jay Neal discuss criminal justice reform in Georgia on the Bill Meyer radio show in Oregon. He makes a solid case for reforming the…

Right on Crime Applauds Passage of Juvenile Reforms in Georgia House

Right on Crime | February 28, 2013
AUSTIN – Today, the Right on Crime campaign congratulated the Georgia House of Representatives for unanimously passing HB 242. This bill would enact comprehensive juvenile justice reforms recommended by…

Marc Levin on NPR’s On Point radio show

Right on Crime | February 21, 2013
Policy Director Marc Levin appeared on NPR’s On Point radio show to discuss the costs of prisons. Here is the link. Right on Crime supports applying the principles of…
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