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Georgia to Change Stance on Sentencing After High Costs and a Doubled Inmate Population

Posted Jan 3, 2012 3:33 PM CDT
By Rachel M. Zahorsky

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With $1 billion in state prison operation costs and a doubled inmate population in the past two decades, Georgia is looking toward its fellow Southern states for examples of successful alternatives to prison time for nonviolent offenders.

The winter, Georgia’s General Assembly will examine ways to send fewer people to jail for property and drug crimes and boost alternative punishments, a suggestion made by a special council appointed last year to study the state’s prison population and criminal code, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

With some of the toughest criminal penalties in the nation for violent and repeat offenders, almost every convict in Georgia spends more time behind bars than ever before—at a price that cuts into funding for education and other areas, the Journal-Constitution reports.

“We’re at a point in time where the necessity for doing something has gotten so big that to turn our head and pretend the problem does not exist is not responsible government,” Gov. Nathan Deal, told the Journal Constitution. Deal added that it’s time for Georgia to follow the lead of Texas, South Carolina and other Southern states and take a more effective approach to punishment.

One successful alternative adopted in some states is the increased use of drug, mental health and veterans’ courts that seek to treat an offender’s underlying issues instead of locking the person up, the Journal-Constitution notes.

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