Deal: Legislation ‘another meaningful step forward’ for criminal justice reform

May 9, 2017

Gov. Nathan Deal today signed criminal justice reform legislation at the Department of Community Supervision Reentry Summit in Macon. SB 174, SB 175 and SB 176 are based on recommendations from the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform and build upon Deal’s previous criminal justice reform initiatives.

“This most recent legislative package is another meaningful step forward in making Georgia a safer, more prosperous place to call home,” Deal said. “The unprecedented criminal justice reforms we’ve implemented since 2009 have already had a remarkable and positive impact, with overall prison commitments down 15.4 percent through the end of 2016. The bills I signed today will build upon our previous successes to strengthen the accountability court system, continue to reduce recidivism rates and provide juvenile court judges with additional tools to help young offenders. I’d like to thank the sponsors of this legislation, as well as the entire General Assembly, for their continued commitment to these reforms. When we discuss the statutes, statistics and successes, we are ultimately considering the reclaiming of lives, the overcoming of past mistakes and the repairing of families and relationships in Georgia’s communities.”

According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, as a result of the reforms previously passed by the legislature, 67 percent of the state’s prison beds are now occupied by the most serious offenders, up from 58 percent in 2009. At the beginning of 2017, Georgia had 139 accountability courts in 47 out of the 49 judicial circuits, and the number of new participants entering these courts statewide increased by 147 percent in 2016 alone. Felony drug courts had 2,381 active participants, including many individuals who struggle with substance abuse and would likely be in a state prison if not for alternative options. In recent years, the state has reinvested $47 million in the adult system through accountability courts, vocational and on-the-job training, other reentry initiatives, and Residential Substance Abuse Treatment facilities and programs.

Legislation signed today includes:

  • SB 174 ensures the sustained success of Georgia’s accountability courts and enhances the state’s probation system so that resources are focused at the front-end of terms when chances of recidivism are highest. It also implements reforms to ensure appropriate victim and prosecutorial input in the parole process.
  • SB 175 aims to reduce juvenile delinquency and protect public safety when a juvenile is deemed incompetent to proceed in the judicial process. It also creates new parental accountability orders, tools for juvenile court judges to encourage increased parental involvement, which numerous studies show reduces the likelihood of delinquent conduct.
  • SB 176 includes provisions to require that individuals are notified by mail prior to the issue of a bench warrant for failure to appear for a non-serious traffic offense. It also clarifies terms regarding Habitual Violator driving permits.