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Georgia

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.

An Update on Juvenile Justice Reform in Georgia

Right on Crime | April 4, 2012
The outlook was bright when the House voted 172 – 0 to pass ambitious legislation that would rewrite nearly every section of the state’s juvenile code. But the outlook…

An Update on Adult Corrections Reform in Georgia

Right on Crime | April 4, 2012
When the final ink was dry, everyone in the Georgia legislature agreed it is time to move forward with widespread criminal justice reform. The House voted 162-0 and the…

Additional Alternative Courts Serve Defendants on Opposite Coasts

Right on Crime | March 16, 2012
Criminal justice never has worked efficiently as a one-size-fits-all model, and greater numbers of states are realizing that tailored approaches to crime and public safety are more effective and…

GPPF Releases New Paper by Right on Crime Senior Advisers

Right on Crime | February 16, 2012
Today, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation released a new report, "Peach State Criminal Justice: Controlling Costs, Protecting the Public," by Right on Crime's senior advisers, Marc Levin and Vikrant…

Deal Highlights Criminal Justice Reform in State-of-the-State Address

Right on Crime | January 17, 2012
Republican Governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal, addressed the state legislature last week in his state-of-the-state address, detailing his priorities for the next legislative session. Read more

Georgia Reform Emphasizes Community-Based Services

Right on Crime | November 22, 2011
Georgia’s criminal justice reform special council has delivered a recipe of recommendations that, if adopted by the General Assembly next year, could eventually shorten behind-the-bars time for some nonviolent…

Revamping the Georgia Juvenile Code

Right on Crime | October 11, 2011
Georgia is getting closer to finalizing the proposals for a complete rewrite of the state Juvenile Court Code. This long process—which has taken close to eight years now—has been…

Right On Crime Launches in Georgia

Right on Crime | October 5, 2011
Last week, Right On Crime officially launched in the state Georgia. In the process, Right On Crime caught the attention of legislators throughout the state, generated significant media attention,…

Georgia Tests a New Method of Parole Reporting

Right on Crime | June 21, 2011
It is well-understood that parole is less expensive than incarceration, but the state of Georgia is now testing a new program to make parole even more cost-effective. The state…

More Mental Health Courts in Georgia

Right on Crime | May 31, 2011
Due to a shortage of proper facilities and care, prisons have become the de facto home for the mentally ill and a significant financial burden on state corrections budgets.…

Asset Forfeiture Abuse in Georgia

Right on Crime | April 7, 2011
A new study from the Institute for Justice—Forfeiting Accountability—has found that local Georgia law enforcement agencies are turning civil forfeiture proceeds into slush funds, hidden from public view. Read…

One in every 13 Georgians is under Correctional Supervision

Right on Crime | February 21, 2011
People in the criminal justice community often quote the startling statistic that one in every 31 adults in the United States is under correctional supervision. As startling as this…
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