Georgia Public Policy Foundation President Kelly McCutchen joined Gov. Nathan Deal, state legislative leaders, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol Hunstein and Attorney General Sam Olens at the state Capitol Wednesday, Feb. 16, for an unprecedented news conference by the three branches of government to announce a bipartisan effort at criminal justice reform for the state.
“Constitutionally, public safety is a core responsibility of state government, but that doesn’t mean criminal justice shouldn’t be held accountable for results – or that more taxpayer funds will solve the problem,” McCutchen said. “This news conference shows that our state’s leaders are willing to set aside partisanship for the opportunity to strategically build on Georgia’s early successes and transform our criminal justice system to be more effective and efficient.”
About one adult in 13 is under some form of correctional supervision in Georgia, which is the highest rate in the nation, and the state spends more than $1 billion per year on housing approximately 60,000 inmates. Through its Criminal Justice Initiative, the Georgia Public Policy Foundation has brought national experts on the issue to Georgia and proposed reforms that can reduce incarceration, recidivism and the burden on taxpayers.
Gov. Deal, who declared criminal justice reform one of his priorities during his inaugural address, was joined by legislative leaders including Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, House Speaker David Ralston, Rep. Jay Neal, Chairman of the House State Institutions and Property Committee, and House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. Deal announced legislation, sponsored by Rep. Neal, to create a special council to study criminal justice reforms and make recommendations to a joint legislative committee in 2012.
The governor thanked the Foundation “for its leadership and focus on the issue, which heavily impacts families’ lives and taxpayers’ pocketbooks.”
“The Foundation’s Criminal Justice Initiative pushed the problems to the forefront, proposed practical solutions, brought in leaders from other states to share examples, and created this nonpartisan opportunity,” Deal added.
“There are numerous options,” McCutchen said, “and each should be explored to see how it meets Georgia’s needs: Drug and mental health courts can divert more nonviolent offenders away from the prison system on the front end. Faith- and character-based programs within the system reduce the recidivism rate, and day report centers and alternative sanctions for technical parole violations help turn tax burdens into taxpayers on the back end.”
About the Georgia Public Policy Foundation: The Foundation is an independent, state-based think tank that proposes practical, market- oriented approaches to public policy to improve the lives of Georgians. Visit www.georgiapolicy.org to read about innovative solutions to the state’s challenges or to watch streaming online video of Foundation events.