On May 8, 2017, Governor Nathan Deal signed into action criminal justice reform bills that will mean big changes for how certain branches of law enforcement and the judicial process operate. Under the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform’s recommendation, Deal signed three state bills that provide additional support during probation terms (focusing on the initial stages of probation, as that is when recidivism rates are the highest), extra tools for judges of juveniles to provide real help, and provisions that require warrant notices be sent to those who’ve missed minor traffic court.
Before beginning its criminal justice reform in 2009, Georgia’s had a reputation for incarceration and recidivism remained strong. With one of the highest incarcerated populations per capita and with some of the longest probation sentences nationwide, Georgia became desperate to make changes. These new reforms ride the tails of other efforts by legislature and Governor Deal, and they promise further decreases in crime rates and better rehabilitation.
According to Deal, “The most recent legislative package is another meaningful step forward in making Georgia a safer, more prosperous place to call home. The unprecedented criminal justice reforms we’ve implemented since 2009 have already had remarkable positive impact, with overall prison commitments down 15.4 percent through the end of 2016.” Neighborhoods in cities like Atlanta, Georgia have seen remarkable decreases in crime rates since the beginning of reform. He went on to say that the bills he signed into action will be built on the success of previous efforts toward criminal justice reform. He hopes they will reduce recidivism rates and give extra tools to juvenile judges which could help young offenders. His top priority in reform is “reclaiming lives, the overcoming of past mistakes, and the repairing of families and relationships in Georgia’s communities.”
Other recent measures toward criminal justice reform taken by the state of Georgia include the expansion of accountability courts in 47 of 49 judicial circuits, an increase in the percentage of inmates incarcerated for the most serious offenses, an emphasis on rehabilitation instead of incarceration for felony drug offenders with substance abuse problems, and a $47 billion investment into the adult court system through accountability court, vocational training, and the expansion of Residential Substance Abuse Treatment facilities.
Amid a recent history of saving lives and preserving families through criminal justice reform, the results are in the statistics. Through the establishment of accountability courts, juvenile justice system improvements, and efforts to make the re-entry process better for incarcerated individuals. The goal has been to to create a criminal justice system that operates “smarter, fairer, and more effective and less costly, while in no way sacrificing public safety,” says Deal.
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