Less than one year after implementing smart, conservative sentencing reform, Georgia’s counties are already bearing witness to the benefits.

Last session, Georgia’s legislature decided to reevaluate the sentences for some low-risk, non-violent crimes, and discussed whether public safety dictated that offenders committing those crimes should be locked up. In some cases, there was no benefit to public safety in jailing those offenders, and in fact the high costs outweighed any perceived benefit.

As a result, today, out of 37,000 county jail beds in Georgia, 10,000 of them are vacant.

This reduction in jail bed usage means that counties and local governments are saving substantial amounts of taxpayer dollars. Jail beds can cost between $25 and $50 per day, and each day that each bed isn’t being unnecessarily filled equates to significant savings in county budgets.

Furthermore, those beds are now available for serious and violent offenders who do need to be locked up, bolstering public safety across the state. Finally, reducing population pressures can result in safer in-facility conditions for staff and a greater ability to keep order.