E-Bulletin: Sentencing and Corrections Policy Updates Newsletter

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The E-Bulletin is an NCSL electronic newsletter for state legislators, legislative staff, and others interested in state sentencing corrections policy. This newsletter provides periodic updates on state sentencing and corrections legislation and budgets, highlights innovative policies and programs, and connects you with reports and news of upcoming NCSL events.

Highlights from this issue include:

  • 2012 Enactments: Significant new legislation reported in NCSL database
  • Time Served: Rethinking long sentences for non-violent offenders

The E-Bulletin is prepared under a partnership project of NCSL's Criminal Justice Program and the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States. The NCSL project is designed to help states find the best research and information availale when considering sentencing and corrections policy options and reforms.

This article appeared in the November 2012 issue. Full newsletter in pdf.


State in Focus: Georgia Public Safety Reform

New legislation addresses high recidivism rates and decreases corrections spending

In 2011 the Georgia General Assembly created the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians (HB 265) to perform an extensive review of the state’s sentencing and corrections practices. Based on the Council’s recommendations, HB 1176 was signed into law this year and is expected to create at least $264 million in savings, with $17 million already budgeted (HB 742, 2012) for programs that reduce recidivism.

The council conducted an in-depth review of the state's sentencing and corrections data and found that Georgia's prison population had more than doubled over the past two decades, corrections spending had risen to over $1 billion, and the prison population was expected to rise another 8 percent by 2016.

The council identified several challenges, including a high percentage of admissions of drug and property offenders.  The resulting legislation expands community options for nonviolent offenders while reserving prison space for violent offenders. It also creates ranges of penalties for burglary and simple drug possession, allowing for increased penalties for more serious offenses.  Graduated sanctions are authorized alternatives to revocation of probation after a rule violation.

To address the nearly 30 percent recidivism rate, the act requires the Judicial Council and the Board of Corrections to ensure the use of evidence-based practices to improve offender supervision.  Performance outcome data will be collected and analyzed to determine the effectiveness of treatment programs.

The accompanying budget reserves $175,000 to develop a risk assessment tool for judges to identify offenders who can safely be diverted from prison.  Residential programs are slated to receive $5.7 million in reinvested funds and $11.6 million are going to accountability courts.