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. A second set of recommendations from the Special Council was adopted by the legislature in 2013 that included relaxing mandatory sentences for some drug trafficking, violent and sex offenses. The Special Council again put forth recommendations in January 2014 focusing on improving prisoner reentry which are included in legislation passed by the legislature.
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.
- 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.