Deal receives criminal justice reform report

February 21, 2017

The Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform today delivered its 2017 report to Gov. Nathan Deal. The report includes findings on the success of previous criminal justice reform efforts and recommendations to build upon previous initiatives, including changes to probation and parole for returning citizens. The Council’s recommendations include reducing lengthy probation sentences for certain non-violent offenses as an incentive for good behavior, using probation to reduce recidivism among first-time non-violent offenders and focusing supervision resources on people at the beginning of their terms to reduce caseloads and deliver more impactful supervision.

“In the last five years, our efforts to improve Georgia’s criminal justice system have improved overall efficiency, bolstered public safety and provided tools for incarcerated individuals to rebuild their lives,” said Deal. “When Georgia began pursuing criminal justice reform, the prison population was expected to exceed 60,000 by the end of 2016, costing the state an additional $264 million. Instead, we saved millions of taxpayer dollars and reinvested more than $47 million of that savings in accountability courts, job training, the reentry initiative and Residential Substance Abuse Treatment facilities. In implementing these common sense reforms, we are taking steps to preserve families, address the underlying issues associated with incarceration and provide offenders with meaningful second chances. I look forward to reviewing these recommendations and working with the General Assembly to ensure that Georgia maintains an effective and sustainable criminal justice system.”

Findings in the report include:

  • At the start of 2009, 58 percent of the state’s prison beds were occupied by Georgia’s most serious offenders; now that proportion stands at 67 percent.
  • Between 2009 and 2015, overall prison commitments dropped 16.3 percent to the lowest total number of commitments since 2002. In that same timeframe, commitments of African-American males dropped 25.3 percent to the lowest total since 1988.
  • Since 2013, yearly juvenile commitments to the Department of Juvenile Justice have decreased by 46 percent.
  • At the start of 2017, Georgia had 139 accountability courts in 47 out of the 49 judicial circuits. The number of new participants entering such courts statewide increased by 147 percent in 2016, more than doubling capacity. 

Led by two subcommittees on probation and sentencing, the Council reviewed Georgia’s probation, prison, sentencing and arrest data. The council also examined Georgia’s policies and practices related to probation and sentencing and gathered input from a wide range of professionals in the criminal justice system. By adopting the recommendations of the Council with respect to probation and parole, the state will be able to focus resources on offenders early in their supervision terms when the risk of recidivism is highest. If the policy goals adopted by the council are fully implemented, the forecasted prison population is projected to drop as much as 5 percent (or 2,627 beds) by FY 2022, allowing the state to avoid as much as $245 million in spending that would otherwise be necessary to accommodate additional inmates.

These recommendations, unanimously approved by the full council, serve as a foundation for SB 174, SB 175 and SB 176, which have been introduced and referred to Senate Judiciary Committee.

The members of the Criminal Justice Reform Council include:

  • Hon. Michael P. Boggs, Justice, Supreme Court of Georgia (Co-Chair)
  • Hon. Bill Cowsert, Senator, 46th District
  • Hon. Chuck Efstration, Representative, 104th District
  • Hon. Jason Deal, Superior Court Judge, Northeastern Circuit
  • Hon. Steve Teske, Judge, Clayton County Juvenile Court
  • Hon. George Hartwig, District Attorney, Houston Judicial Circuit
  • Hon. Scott Berry, Sheriff, Oconee County
  • Hon. Stephanie Woodard, Solicitor General, Hall County
  • Tracy J. BeMent, District Court Administrator, Tenth Judicial Circuit
  • R. David Botts, Esq., Criminal Defense Attorney
  • Roy Copeland, Esq., Criminal Defense Attorney and Assistant Professor, Valdosta State University
  • David J. Dunn, Esq., Circuit Public Defender, Lookout Mountain Circuit
  • Carey A. Miller, Esq., Deputy Executive Counsel, Office of the Governor (Co-Chair)
  • Teresa Roseborough, Esq., Executive V.P., General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, The Home Depot
  • Christine Van Dross, Esq., Circuit Public Defender, Clayton Judicial Circuit

Read the full report below.