Mike Klein Online

State Bipartisan Leadership Group Will Address Criminal Justice Reform

Mike Klein

Georgia is about to launch a new bipartisan attempt at criminal justice reform.

Nationally one in every 100 adults is behind state prison or local jail bars but the number is one in every 70 Georgia adults. Nationally one in every 31 adults is in prison or jail, on probation or on parole but the comparable number is one in every 13 Georgia adults, worst in the nation.

An historic group of state leaders will address criminal justice reform during a Wednesday afternoon news conference at the State Capitol.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol Hunstein, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, House Speaker David Ralston, Attorney General Sam Olens, House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams and Rep. Jay Neal will share the podium with Governor Nathan Deal in a rare coalition of executive, legislative and judicial leaders united to coordinate criminal justice reform.

Georgia is playing a criminal justice reform high stakes game and it really has no choice.  With 60,000 incarcerated adults and 160,000 adult probationers, Georgia is boxed into a no-win corner.  Budget trauma is well told. Georgia cannot afford almost $1.4 billion that it spends per year on adult corrections, pardons and paroles, and juvenile justice systems.

Governor Deal’s Inaugural Address signaled criminal justice reform would be ahead when he said violent and repeat offenders will “pay for your crimes. For other offenders who want to change their lives, we will provide the opportunity to do so with day reporting centers, drug, DUI and mental health courts, and expanded probation and treatment options.”

Georgia’s criminal justice reform initiative is expected to receive assistance from the Pew Center on the States Public Safety Performance Project. The Pew Center is highly regarded for corrections reform work with current projects in 12 states.

Pew assisted Texas four years ago when it made a dramatic shift from incarceration toward community-based programs for non-violent offenders. Texas invested $241 million in programs but it saved a projected $900 million that would not be needed for new prison construction.

Twenty-five years ago Georgia spent $150 million per year on state corrections. That number has increased almost tenfold across adult and juvenile corrections, and pardons and paroles.

“There’s no question that in Georgia, and across the country, the expansion of incarceration has helped reduce the crime rate,” Adam Gelb, director of the Pew Center public safety project, told a Georgia Public Policy Foundation conference this past November..

“When you lock up career offenders, when you lock up violent people, that’s who you have prisons for and it pays off. The issue is, have we locked up so many people, has the net been cast so wide that we’re past the point of diminishing returns? The answer seems to be yes.”

Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

February 15, 2011 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , ,

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