Pew Applauds Georgia Leaders for Enacting Comprehensive Public Safety Reform

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Pew Applauds Georgia Leaders for Enacting Comprehensive Public Safety Reform

Bipartisan Legislation will Reduce Recidivism and Cut Costs

The far-reaching package of reforms Governor Nathan Deal signed into law today places Georgia among a growing number of states leading the way towards data-driven, fiscally sound criminal justice systems. House Bill 1176 and accompanying budget measures were the product of an intensive bipartisan, inter-branch working group process and received unanimous support in both chambers of the Georgia General Assembly.

“This comprehensive new law reflects a bipartisan consensus about how to combat nonviolent crime,” said Adam Gelb, director of the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States. “Georgia's leaders have developed a landmark set of reforms that will make communities safer and curb runaway corrections spending.”

Georgia's prison population was projected to rise by eight percent over the next five years at a cumulative cost to taxpayers of $264 million. H.B. 1176 is estimated to avert all of that growth and expense, and the state has invested more than $17 million into initiatives designed to reduce reoffending. The bill:

  • Focuses prison space on violent and career criminals by establishing graduated penalties for several property and drug crimes;
  • Reduces recidivism by strengthening probation and accountability courts that target offenders with substance abuse and mental health problems;
  • Relieves local jail crowding by reducing delays in the transfer of jail inmates to state facilities; and
  • Holds corrections agencies accountable for better results through data collection and performance measurement systems.

“The unanimous support for this reform package is the direct result of the hard work and leadership of Governor Deal, legislative leaders and Chief Justice Hunstein, as well as the members of the Special Council and the Special Joint Committee that developed the landmark legislation,” Gelb said. “We also applaud Representative Jay Neal and Senator Johnny Grant for their leadership as original sponsors of the legislation that created the reform process in 2010.”

The new law and budget initiatives will place Georgia in the company of more than a dozen states, including Arkansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas that are implementing policies designed to provide greater public safety returns on state corrections dollars. These reforms have contributed to the first drop in the national prison population in nearly 40 years, while crime rates continue to decline.

The Georgia legislation and budget measures were based on more than six months of intensive work by the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians.  The Council conducted an in-depth analysis of the state's sentencing and corrections data and received input from a wide range of stakeholders, including prosecutors, sheriffs, crime victim advocates, and county officials.  At the request of state leaders, Pew's Public Safety Performance Project provided technical assistance to the Council and state leaders throughout the reform process.

The Georgia Senate approved the legislation on March 27 by a vote of 51-0; the House passed the bill 162-0 on March 29.

Read more about Georgia's public safety reforms.

The Pew Center on the States is a division of The Pew Charitable Trusts that identifies and advances effective solutions to critical issues facing states. Pew is a nonprofit organization that applies a rigorous, analytical approach to improve public policy, inform the public and stimulate civic life.

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