Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform delivers report

The Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform has delivered its final report (.pdf) to Governor Nathan Deal, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, and Speaker of the House David Ralston.

Gov. Deal released the following statement:

“The Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform has exceeded expectations by delivering a comprehensive, serious and well-crafted report. I joined members of the General Assembly in asking this council to provide us with a starting point. We still have a long way to go in this process, as my office engages with legislators and concerned Georgians on where we go from here.

Obviously, the council has provided us with an in-depth study and recommendations. One of those recommendations I have already agreed to: I will sign an executive order to keep a council intact so that it can continue to provide input on this important topic.

We have an amazing opportunity to save lives as well as tax dollars. While we’ll never shrink from our duty to protect the public from dangerous criminals, we know that alternative sentencing for nonviolent offenders suffering from addiction or mental illness produces much better results.

Let’s get to work on promoting recovery and rehabilitation rather than a system that simply hardens criminals.”

Lt. Gov. Cagle said:

“I truly appreciate the diligent and thorough work of the Criminal Justice Reform Council, and I am grateful that Senators Hamrick, Crosby and Ramsey were willing to lend their experience and expertise to this critically important effort. Keeping Georgia’s citizens safe and doing so in a fiscally prudent manner is a primary function of state government, and I look forward to debate on this important issue during the session.”

The Special Council was created by House Bill 265, which charged the Council with undertaking

[a] study of Georgia’s criminal justice and correctional system … to enhance public safety, reduce victimization, hold offenders more accountable, enhance probation and parole supervision, and better manage a growing prison population through increasing public safety, improving rehabilitation, and lowering state expense;

The Council included members appointed by the Governor, the Speaker, Lieutenant Governor and Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. It also included the Governor himself or a designee and the Chief Justice and at least one member of the minority party of each chamber of the General Assembly. Members of the Commission are

Gov. Deal
Todd Markle, Executive Counsel to the Governor (Gov. Deal’s designee)
David McDade, District Attorney, Douglas County
Linda Evans, Attorney, member of Judicial Qualifications Commission, Atlanta
Ken Shigley, President-elect of the State Bar of Georgia, Atlanta

Speaker Ralston
Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D- Decatur)
Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla)
Rep. Willie Talton (R- Warner Robins)

Lt. Gov. Cagle
Sen. John Crosby (R-Tifton)
Sen. Bill Hamrick (R-Carrollton)
Sen. Ron Ramsey (D-Decatur)

Chief Justice Hunstein
Chief Justice Carol Hunstein, Georgia Supreme Court
Hon. Ural Glanville, Superior Court Judge, Atlanta Judicial Court
Hon. Michael P. Boggs, Superior Court Judge, Waycross Judicial Court

From the report:

This report provides analysis and options for policymakers to consider to increase public safety and avert the growth currently projected for the state’s prison population. It provides descriptionsof each of the options. The Council strongly recommends that where potential savings are achieved, a portion be reinvested into those options that have been proven to reduce recidivism and improve public safety. These include expanding the availability of drug and other accountability courts and strengthening community supervision. The Council also suggests investing in effective information and performance measurement systems.

The following policy options are presented in three sections:

The first section consists of recommendations to improve public safety and hold offenders accountable by improving the criminal justice system in Georgia, particularly focusing on strengthening community supervision, sanctions and services.

The second section outlines potential sentencing reform options that will focus expensive prison beds on violent, career criminals and identify lower-level, non-violent offenders who could be effectively supervised in the community.

The final section summarizes the priority reinvestment opportunities that the Council believes should be adopted by the legislature in order to improve public safety in Georgia.

I’ll be posting more about the contents of the 25-page report later today or tomorrow.

12 comments

  1. Calypso says:

    Legalize, regulate and tax drugs and prostitution and you won’t need to spend the enormous amount of money in law enforcement, the judicial system and the penal system which we do now.

    Take a small percentage of that savings and use it for drug prevention, drug education and drug treatment & recovery programs.

      • The Comma Guy says:

        It’s Gainesville, right Dash?

        What will happen when a former member of the Army, who is suffering from PTSD gets arrested for a DUI based on the cocaine in his system? Which of the 4 specialty courts will have primary control of his case? A better and serious question, where is the money for all the new judges going to come from? Court systems that already have backlogs and huge dockets can’t afford for their judges to be gone another day or two a week to handle these designer courts.

        I agree with the premise – that prison isn’t the answer. The problem is getting the legislature to come up with additional tools for the courts to use. Right now it seems to be prison or nothing.

  2. fuctheman says:

    I wonder if this Bill will eventually lead Ga. to rid itself of the “3 (or 2) strikes your out” law that puts even non-violent criminals in prison to serve maximum time w/out parole? My best friend recieved 15 years to the door- no chance of parole- for his 3rd offense. 1993 he was convicted of 2 burglaries.
    He was 19 years olds, no weapons, no one was home and he served almost 2 years….then in 2004 his home was broke into and he was shot in the arm by one the assailants. During the investigation of the “home invasion” my friend (the actual victim) was arrested when a four-wheeler he had recently bought from a friend was traced as stolen. He had a reciept and witnesses who were present at the time of sale but was convicted of Theft by recieving. Meanwhile the men convicted of the break in and shooting were caught (2 years later) 2 were convicted of Attempted Robbery and the shooter with Assault. All 3 are already out on parole in less that 4 years. Meanwhile my friend rejected the 5 years do 3 plea and went to trial in 2009 after spending almost a year in jail awaiting trial. The judge was a real [email protected]@ and the jury was not told how much time he would receive if convicted. So he has been in prison now 3 years and will not be released til 2023 under current recidivists statute implemented by Ga. I am eager to hear any opinions or advice as to what I can do to help his case and similar stories and outcomes.

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