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17 September 2014

DOJ Report: California's Prison Population Increased, While Georgia had Fewer Inmates in 2013

Governor Nathan Deal (R - Georgia) made criminal justice reform a key part of his first term agenda.

Shortly after taking office, Governor Deal convened the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians to look at ways the state could, according to Deal, "get to work on promoting recovery and rehabilitation rather than a system that simply hardens criminals."

For three consecutive years, the Governor signed into law criminal justice reform bills that: A.) establishes alternatives to incarceration for low-level, non-violent drug and property offenders and reserves expensive prison beds for the most dangerous offenders; B.) restores judicial discretion by allowing a departure from mandatory minimum sentences in some very limited circumstances; and C.) help rehabilitated offenders successfully re-enter society by removing barriers to employment, housing and education.

Governor Deal's focus criminal justice reform seems to be paying off.

An Atlanta Journal Constitution report said fewer black Georgians are being sent to prison.

Black people still make up more than 60 percent of the state prison population. But in just the past five years, the number of black men being sent to prison has declined 19 percent, and the number of black women has tumbled 33 percent, according to Department of Corrections data obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Rankin and Sheinin (2 August 2014). Fewer black Georgians sent to prison. Atlanta Journal Constitution. Retrieved on 17 September 2014.

In addition, new data from the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics says that while the number of sentenced prisoners grew in 27 states --including three of the four states with the largest prison populations: Texas (up 2 percent), California (up 1 percent), and Florida (up 1 percent)-- sentenced prisoners in Georgia decreased by 1 percent in 2013.

“Since taking office, I have spearheaded legislation to overhaul Georgia’s adult and juvenile criminal justice systems because we simply could not afford the continually increasing costs of incarceration,” Deal said. “Accountability court funding and improved rules for probation detention centers have successfully addressed the large jail backlog and high costs paid to counties housing state offenders. By identifying low-risk, nonviolent offenders and more effective ways to rehabilitate them, we are steering these offenders away from a life of crime and reserving our expensive prison beds for the violent offenders who pose a public safety risk.”