Governor Nathan Deal has signed a criminal justice reform bill that will keep the public safe while cutting the costs of state prisons by reserving expensive prison beds for the most violent criminals. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports reforms from House Bill 1176 are projected to save Georgia taxpayers $264 million over the next five years.
Justice Fellowship was part of a large group of organizations led by the Pew Center on the States’ Public Safety Performance Project. This broad coalition of government officials, law enforcement professionals, pastors and business leaders worked hard to build support for these criminal justice reforms. Our success was only possible because so many people answered the call and contacted state legislators to urge them to vote for the justice reform measure.
Craig DeRoche, Justice Fellowship’s Director of External Affairs, participated in Governor Deal’s signing ceremony. DeRoche remarked, “Governor Deal spoke from his heart as he signed the most comprehensive improvements to public safety and the Georgia criminal justice system in several decades.”
This bill will change the way Georgia does criminal justice. Rather than simply warehousing people in prison—which is expensive and ineffective—Governor Deal and leaders have “moved Georgia toward improving public safety through accountability and a focus on programs shown to reduce crime, break addictions and respect victims,” said DeRoche.
Georgia’s HB 1176 reforms the system while cutting spending and maintaining public safety. The bill will focus the criminal justice system on incarcerating those who are truly dangerous, while punishing low-risk offenders without the great expense of incarceration.
Justice Fellowship works to reform the criminal justice system so victims are respected, offenders are transformed and reintegrated, and communities are safer. Georgia’s new law does exactly that. The new law will add Georgia to the growing list of states like Kentucky, Colorado, South Carolina, Maryland and Ohio that are rethinking how to increase safety and save taxpayers’ dollars.
Governor Deal described the importance of the new law:
“As we reserve more of our expensive [prison] bed space for truly dangerous criminals [we] free up revenue to deal with those who are not necessarily dangerous but are in many ways in trouble because of various addictions…Our system is feeding on itself with our recidivism rate being as high as it is. We have the opportunity now to make a difference in the lives of future generations of Georgians.”
The bill will reform the system by:
– Focusing prison space on violent and career criminals and establishing graduated alternative penalties for property and drug crimes;
– Strengthening treatment programs for offenders with substance abuse and mental health problems;
– Relieving local jail crowding by reducing delays in the transfer of jail inmates to state facilities;
– Holding corrections agencies accountable for key performance measures.
Visit Criminal Justice in the States for more information on Georgia and additional state reform efforts.