Georgia Leading the Way on Criminal Justice Reform

April 13th, 2015 by Leave a Comment

Georgia’s successful criminal justice reforms were highlighted recently at an event in Atlanta hosted by the Charles Koch Institute.

Enea Gjoza and Ewan Watt of the Charles Koch Institute highlighted Georgia’s efforts in an article published by InsiderAdvantage, “Georgia Sketching Out a Path to Criminal Justice Reform.”

In just five years Georgia has seen its adult prison population fall from approximately 60,000 inmates to 53,000. This has largely been the result of community-based initiatives that assess and divert non-violent offenders into the programs best placed to aid rehabilitation and reduce recidivism. In the past, jails and prisons were often used as depositories for individuals who posed no physical threat to others, resulting in severe overcrowding. For example, a Georgia man arrested for loitering spent 13 months in jail before seeing a lawyer or even being formally charged. With the focus now shifting to targeting the violent, jail overcrowding has been nearly eliminated, and the proportion of offenders in prison for violent crimes has risen from 58% to 64% between 2009 and 2013.

Professional licensing is an area where Georgia could continue to make progress:

Georgia regularly prohibits felons from working in around 80 professions, even if their original crime had nothing to do with their desired occupation. For example, an individual who has been charged with any felony or crime involving “moral turpitude” can be denied a license to practice in many professions such as a barber, plumber, and electrical engineer. Given the fact that employment can play a key role in an individual staying out of the corrections system, this seems like an obvious missed opportunity.

Video of the panel is below:

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