With incoming governor, it’s time for ‘New Deal’ in criminal justice

Marc A. Levin's picture

Georgia’s Governor-elect Nathan Deal has earned his stripes as a tough-as-nails prosecutor who rightly noted on the campaign trail that he put many rapists in prison where they belong. At the same time, prosecutors in Georgia and around the nation also see up close the many low-level, nonviolent offenders who cycle through the system.

In Texas, which is similarly known for its law and order approach, one impetus for the successful reforms over the last several years was the prosecutors and judges who told lawmakers that they were reluctantly sending many low-level, nonviolent offenders to prisons who were not a danger to public safety and could succeed in the right community corrections program. Their problem, they said, was that few of these alternatives to hold them accountable were actually available.

As Georgia’s leaders confront a budget shortfall, they can learn much from the “tough and smart” approach that Texas has taken.

Since Texas began its reforms to strengthen community-based supervision, sanctions and treatment options for nonviolent offenders in 2005 rather than build new prisons, the state has avoided more than $2 billion in projected prison costs. Most importantly, Texas has realized a 9 percent reduction in crime. In fact, the Texas crime rate in 2009 is at its lowest point since 1973.

Georgia’s criminal justice system is ripe for reform. In Georgia, about one adult in 13 is under some form of correctional control, either on probation or parole, or behind bars. This is the highest rate in the nation. The national average is one in 31. About one adult in 70 is behind bars in Georgia. The state spends more than $1 billion per year on housing approximately 60,000 inmates.

Corrections costs have grown fivefold since 1985. Longer sentences have driven Georgia’s prison growth. For instance, the average inmate released in 2009 on a drug possession charge spent 21 months locked up, compared with 10 months in 1990. Georgia has 8,969 inmates sentenced for a drug offense, which costs taxpayers $151 million per year.

Support is growing for an examination of ways to achieve a greater reduction in the crimes that most harm the public for every dollar spent. Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) recently said, “I think the dialogue has already started.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich co-authored a March 2010 op-ed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution that noted: “If two-thirds of public school students dropped out, or two-thirds of all bridges built collapsed within three years, would citizens tolerate it? The people of Georgia would never stand for that kind of failure. But that is exactly what is happening all across the United States in our prison systems.

“Last year, some 20,000 people were released from Georgia’s prisons to re-enter our communities. If trends of the past decade continue, two-thirds of them will be rearrested within three years. That failure rate is a clear and present threat to public safety. Not only is this revolving door a threat to public safety, but it results in an increasing burden on each and every taxpayer.”

Fortunately, there are many solutions that have worked in Texas and other jurisdictions. In fact, there is room to expand upon some of the community-based approaches that are already working in Georgia, such as drug courts and day reporting centers.

Georgia has 28 drug courts, where nonviolent offenders with a substance abuse problem are held directly accountable on an ongoing basis by a judge and required to attend treatment.

The state’s drug courts have a 12 percent recidivism rate, but they were cut in 2008 at the same time the prison system continued to receive more money. At the state’s 11 day reporting centers which state data indicate are reducing recidivism, offenders are required to learn a trade, work, and attend treatment if needed.

Finally, to address Gingrich’s concern about recidivism for inmates upon leaving Georgia’s lockups, solutions include improving parole supervision, such as the recent adoption in Texas of instant drug testing with immediate referrals to treatment and greater use of graduated sanctions and incentives to keep parolees in line, rather than let violations pile up that result in revocation to prison.

In 2009, Texas also recognized that a job is often the best recidivism-reduction program and enacted legislation enabling most ex-offenders to obtain provisional occupational licenses in many occupations.

As Georgia’s next generation of leaders take office pledging to enact reforms that promote more accountability and smaller government, the state’s criminal justice system is an ideal place to begin making corrections.

[Marc A. Levin, Esq. (mlevin@texaspolicy.com) Director of the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation (www.texaspolicy.com), wrote this for the Georgia Public Policy Foundation. The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit, free-market research institute based in Austin. The Georgia Public Policy Foundation is an independent think tank that proposes practical, market-oriented approaches to public policy to improve the lives of Georgians.]

diva1
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Fayette County Needs A Big Change

Fayette County is the biggest injustice of all Georgia counties-who knows what they are trying to prove? The district attorney office is so absurd giving out stiff sentences for nothing and anything.If you have any time in your day-try going to court and listening to all the pleas....20 years...life sentences,etc.You will be very surprised.

Courthouserules
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In Georgia.......

.....you see, we don't like to raise funds to help non-violent offenders, we want them all in jail!
We don't care what prisons cost, and really want to put them in tents with pink underwear and no A/C!

Cyclist
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Well gee CHR$....

do you have problem with pink underwear and tents with no A/C?

Courthouserules
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Cyclisy, Yes--turkey OK--no pink uw!

Butt, you probably wear something similar while "biking!"
I didn't know how to answer you about this until I saw a couple of things in the Atlanta Daily Robbery Chronicle.

1. Oxendine

He is in charge as Insurance Commissioner and for some reason also those con-joints called car loan and Friday liquor loan, and military people's great needs for cash places.
Seems he is being sued by a person who wanted to open one of those but was denied By Oxy from being by sponsored. Oxendine only allows such licenses to people who serve high density areas like military camps and black populations. You can't put one in Fayette County, for instance.
WHY? You might ask: Well his campaign contributors own many of them at once and large ones and got that law through.
Now I know why Georgia wanted Mr. A. Deal!

2. Jose's "Feed" (he are ded but his daughter runs it)

They reported that they fed 22,000 needy and homeless. This is mostly donated food which is cooked at the Atlanta Jail and served at the Turner Field. There was a problem with parking of old Cadillacs and getting the free buses in.
Now, I noticed that there are "servers" who spoon turkey and potatoes, and green beans into plates that are held by other servers, who serve it to tables---no one has to line up for food. Actually, many of them are so obese that they can't line up. They also deliver 4-5,000 to homes who request such service.
There were some this time who had just been kicked out of their foreclosed homes.
Other than that I think maybe it, like church, is primarily a social function.

I don't know what kind of paid staff the operation has but I guess it is a pretty easy job for months other than November and December.

Now, knowing your thought pattern, I already know you are going to say something like:
What has Oxy and Jose got to do with pink underwear?

I thought I would explain it, but I have decided, since it is so obvious, I won't insult you by explaining it!

hutch866
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Chr$

Yet again you got the article wrong, the man suing wasn't denied anything, he's suing because he says Oxendine is issuing too many lending licenses. Also the man suing already has 17 such branches. The state limits the licenses by geography so a city isn't flooded by such lenders, so there can be one in Fayette County. Do you even read the articles, or just read the headlines and make up the rest?

hutch866
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Chr$

No comment?

AtHomeGym
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Hutch & Court

Hutch, of course you're spot on with your comment. When I first read it, I immediately wanted to call "BS" but decided it would be a wasted effort. He's probably out picking a couple bushels of cotton!

Courthouserules
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GYM & Hutch

No, the bushel guy was someone else. He also picks bags of bananas off the banana trees, leaving the stalk! I once saw a spaghetti tree on Monty Python, whereby they picked one noodle at a time and boxed it while on a ladder! They can't be picked until sun-dried on the tree.

Since this thread is about a "new Deal" for Georgia, I wish to comment upon the proposed new tax formulas they are cooking up for Georgia.

But first, why on earth is University of Georgia going to embarrass all of us and play in a bowl game? 6 and 6 record with Oregon Christian Tech on the schedule twice!
No Ohio States, Oklahomas, or no California teams!

Now, back to the new tax formula:

Tax all food again with a sales tax of 4% which will relieve corporations of income tax and possibly individuals.
Add the sales tax to all services which are not now taxed--haircuts, garage repairs labor, massages, prostitutes, house cleaning, church bells, stud horses, bull services, and all, well, everything not now taxed!

Also being considered are SPLOSTS locally to fully support the local school system for all expenses. They plan to also keep the state income tax "for awhile" until they determine the exact income---and they do plan to reduce property taxes now charged for schools, but not until they see if it is also needed.

Who gets hurt the most with grocery taxes and SPLOST taxes?
Is it Corporations; real wealthy dudes; or maybe workers?

hutch866
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Chr$

YOU were the one that brought up the article, with your own at the least mistaken slant, and at the worst just flat lying to make your own slanted political statement.

Cyclist
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CHR$,

those weren't old Cadillacs!!!!

Courthouserules
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soup kitchens

The soup kitchens of old people had to walk to the line or ride the trolley car. But not in Houston, Texas or Crawford Texas! Or in Maine.

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