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.

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Over the last eight years in Texas, the juvenile justice system has been reshaped and reformed. Detention facilities have been shuttered, community supervision has been emphasized, and juvenile arrests…

Stakeholders Discuss Major Georgia Justice Reforms

Right on Crime | April 14, 2015
In past years Georgia has seen the same increase in crime and incarceration as the rest of the nation. “Tough on Crime” legislation led to steeply increased prison populations.…

Mike Klein: Next Move for Georgia Justice Reform Belongs to Legislators

Right on Crime | February 11, 2015
Mike Klein, criminal justice commentator, writes: Georgia legislators will soon have the opportunity to reconfigure the state’s troubled adult misdemeanor private probation industry, redesign juvenile justice technology information tools…

Georgia Targets Huge Gap with Juvenile Justice Databank Project

Right on Crime | December 13, 2014
For discussion purposes, let’s imagine you are a juvenile court judge somewhere in Georgia. A young man and his attorney are standing before you, pleading the boy’s case. Within…

Georgia Approves Aggressive Blueprint for Prisoner Reentry Initiative

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Georgia criminal justice reform will push the pedal hard over the next several months with rapid expansion of the state’s prisoner reentry initiative. Millions of federal grant dollars will…

Mike Klein: “What We’ve Got Here is Failure to Communicate”

Right on Crime | June 19, 2014
“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” Anyone of a certain generation – yeah, that would be my generation – will recognize that famous line from “Cool Hand…

“Feds Authorize New Georgia Juvenile Justice Reform Dollars”

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Federal juvenile justice officials have noticed Georgia’s aggressive reforms and must like what they see because Washington is offering to pony up hundreds of thousands of new dollars to…

“Is Georgia getting ‘Right on Crime’?”

Right on Crime | March 3, 2014
From Peach Pundit: During the budget crisis that has dated back a couple years, many fiscal conservatives have been urging legislators to take a look at criminal justice reform…

Georgia Public Policy Foundation holds final meeting to approve criminal justice reform

Right on Crime | January 7, 2014
The following videos were recorded at GPPF’s final meeting of the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform. Click to view. “Negligent Hiring” Protection Ban the Box and Criminal Records…
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