Public Safety in Georgia

This page was updated on June 27, 2017, to reflect new data.

After the comprehensive reform of its adult corrections system in 2012, Georgia enacted sweeping juvenile justice legislation in 2013 to reduce the commitment of less-serious offenders to secure facilities and to invest in effective, community-based alternatives to incarceration. H.B. 242 and accompanying budget measures are expected to save Georgia nearly $85 million through 2018, while avoiding the need to open two additional residential juvenile corrections facilities. In addition, a portion of the projected savings was allocated in 2013 to expanding community-based efforts to reduce recidivism through a new $5 million voluntary, fiscal incentive grant program to counties. The reforms emerged from the work of Georgia’s Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform, which collaborated with Pew and the Crime and Justice Institute to analyze corrections data and develop policy recommendations.

"We know one thing for certain: Spending $91,000 a year to lock up a juvenile and getting 65 percent recidivism in return is not working. We can be smarter with taxpayer dollars. More importantly, we can produce a safer Georgia."

Carol Hunstein, chief justice, state Supreme Court state Supreme Court

Before overhauling its juvenile justice system, Georgia reformed its adult sentencing and correctional policies through H.B. 1176. The 2012 law was expected to prevent all of the state’s projected prison growth by prioritizing space for high-risk offenders and reducing recidivism through improved probation practices, drug courts, and other sentencing alternatives. Between 2011 and 2014, Georgia nearly eliminated its backlog of state-sentenced offenders awaiting intake into the prison system from local jails and saved more than $25 million. During the same period, the state’s violent and property crime rate fell 8 percent. Like the juvenile justice reforms, this package emerged from the work of the special council in collaboration with Pew, the Crime and Justice Institute, and Applied Research Services Inc.

Other highlights include:

1) Population in state custody reduced.

  • Since 2013, the number of youths committed to the Department of Juvenile Justice has fallen by 46 percent.
  • Out-of-home placements have declined 21 percent.
  • The number of juveniles in secure placements in youth development campuses fell 36 percent and in detention centers declined 11 percent.

2) Better youth outcomes.

  • Every judicial circuit now has access to evidence-based interventions.
  • In 2016, 1,723 youths were enrolled in evidence-based programs funded through new grants.
  • Nearly two-thirds of participants successfully completed their programs.

3) Taxpayer dollars saved.

  • Georgia closed three correctional facilities.
  • The reforms were initially projected to save $85 million over five years through reductions in the population in state custody.
  • The state reinvested $30 million of its savings in evidence-based programs in local communities.
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