In 2012, the General Assembly enacted a law based on recommendations of a Special Council created by legislation a year earlier. The council found that the state prison population had more than doubled in the last 20 years, and projected another 8 percent growth in the next five years, absent policy reform. The act focuses on providing prison space for serious offenders, and strengthens probation and court supervision. It also creates graduated degrees of penalties for burglary and forgery, raises felony theft thresholds, revises penalties for drug possession to be based on drug weight, expands use of electronic monitoring, requires evidence-based corrections practices and establishes procedures for risk and needs assessments. The legislation is expected to avert prison population growth of about 5,000 inmates during the next five years and lawmakers reinvested $17 million in accountability courts and residential programs for FY2013.
Following adoption of the adult reforms, the Special Council was reconvened by the governor in 2012 to consider reforms to the juvenile justice system and continue review of the adult system. Prior to the 2013 legislative session, the council released recommendations that were estimated to decrease the juvenile secure detention population and save the state $85 million through 2018. The Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2013 implemented many of the recommendations.
The legislature further addressed adult sentencing and corrections policy in 2013 by relaxing mandatory sentences for some drug trafficking, violent and sex offenses. Also in 2013, the Special Council was codified and continues to make recommendations for improvement to the criminal and juvenile justice systems.
Continue reading to learn more about the state’s justice reinvestment, related juvenile reforms, and additional resources.
Creates the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform to conduct a thorough study of the state's criminal justice structure and report findings and recommendations for legislation no later than Nov. 1, 2011. Creates the special joint committee on criminal justice reform to introduce one or more bills or resolutions incorporating recommendations of the council, and requires upon introduction of any legislation that it only be referred to the special joint committee.
HB 1176 (2012) Justice Reinvestment Initiative
Creates degrees of theft based on the value of the stolen property and increases the felony threshold. Creates degrees of felony burglary and forgery and establishes misdemeanor habitual theft and forgery offenses. Creates degrees of drug possession and excludes certain possession offenses from repeat offender sentencing laws. Requires electronic submission of sentencing orders. Authorizes the use of graduated sanctions for probation rule violations and limits the amount of time spent in a probation detention center. Requires the Judicial Council to develop standards for drug and mental health courts, including use of a risk assessment, and makes state funding contingent upon compliance with the standards. Requires the Board of Corrections to adopt rules for the use of evidence-based practices, including use of risk and needs assessments. Requires data collection and tracking of performance measurements for offender supervision.
Appropriates funds for the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (2012 HB 1176) to support new and existing accountability courts, to convert prerelease centers into residential substance abuse treatment centers, and to implement a sentencing risk assessment.
Extends the term of the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform to make recommendations on areas of improvement in the criminal justice system. Requires a report of findings and recommendations by Dec. 31, 2012.
Permits the court to depart from a mandatory minimum sentence for certain drug trafficking, serious violent or sex offenses under certain circumstances and sets departure ranges. Prohibits the reduced sentence from being further reduced through good time or any other sentence reducing measure, except that, during the final year of incarceration, the inmate may be eligible for a transitional center or work release. Codifies the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform to conduct comprehensive reviews of criminal laws, criminal procedure, sentencing laws, adult correctional and juvenile justice issues, enhancement of probation and parole supervision, better management of the prison and juvenile justice population, and other issues related to criminal and accountability courts. Requires the council to establish performance measures in order to track implementation of reforms and to propose additional reforms that further reduce recidivism, lower state expenses and maintain effective and efficient criminal laws that will promote public safety.
- Exec. Order assembling the council pursuant to HB 349 (2013)
Prohibits, when a judge departs from mandatory minimums for certain drug trafficking sentences, the sentence from being further reduced due to good time, earned time, work release or other sentence-reducing measure.
Requires the Board of Corrections to develop and implement programs to assist offenders with reentry, including education, vocational training, social and behavioral programs, substance abuse counseling, mentoring, financial planning, physical and mental health programs, and housing and federal assistance. Requires the board to create a Program and Treatment Completion Certificate that symbolizes an offender's achievements toward successful reentry into society. States that the certificate creates a presumption of due care in hiring, retaining, licensing, leasing to, admitting to a school or program with the individual.
Full summaries of legislation can be found in NCSL’s Sentencing and Corrections Enactment Database.
Related Juvenile Reforms
HB 242 (2013) Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2013
Enacts comprehensive juvenile justice reform. Revises the designated felony law by creating a two-class system with differing sanctions based on severity of offense, eliminating mandatory minimum sentences and permitting non-secure out-of-home placement based on risk level. Prohibits residential commitment of status offenders and certain misdemeanants. Requires the court to consider a juvenile’s risk assessment prior to ordering an out-of-home placement. Increases the use of evidence-based programs. Creates a fiscal incentive program. Improves data collection and reporting. Requires the use of performance-based contracting with service providers.
Establishes the Juvenile Justice Incentive Grant Program Funding Committee to review applications and make funding decisions for the Juvenile Justice Incentive Grant program, in accordance with HB 242 (2013). Appoints members to the committee.
Enacts the Interstate Compact for Juveniles. Specifies the purpose of the compact is to ensure that juvenile offenders are provided adequate supervision and services and public safety interests are adequately protected. Enumerates the powers and duties of the interstate commission.
More information on legislation can be found in NCSL’s Juvenile Justice Bill Tracking Database.
- Ga. Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform
- Department of Juvenile Justice webpage
- Public Safety in Georgia, state technical assistance by the Public Safety Performance Project of The Pew Charitable Trusts
Return to NCSL’s Justice Reinvestment State Resources page or learn more about NCSL’s Criminal Justice program.