Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation Friday [House Bill 265] that would create a panel to study Georgia’s criminal justice system with an eye toward overhauling the state’s tough sentencing laws.That annual bill has to be more than $1 million; maybe $1 billion.
The laws have left the state with overcrowded prisons and taxpayers with an annual corrections bill that tops $1 million.
The legislation creates a 13-member commission that would study sentencing reforms in hopes of offering alternative sentences for some drug addicts and other nonviolent offenders. The panel would have to report its findings by early 2012, in time for lawmakers to act on them in the next legislative session.
Anyway, Georgia seems to be discovering what Texas already did some years ago: we can’t afford to lock up so many people.
The high incarceration rate comes with high costs. Georgia pays $3,800 each year to educate a child in public schools, and $18,000 every year to keep each inmate behind bars, Deal said.
What will we do with them instead?
Hall County is one of several counties that have adopted drug courts, which aim to provide alternative sentences for low-level drug offenders. At the ceremony, drug court graduation Mike Wilcoxson said the program changed his life.That’s one solution.
“One thing drug court has done for me is give me a sense of purpose in my life, to set goals for myself, to be accountable for my actions, and to break the cycle of addiction I had,” Wilcoxson said.
And if we’re not going to lock up so many people, why do we need to build a private prison in Lowndes County?