Category: Crime

Criminal Justice Reform Legislative Post-Game

By Ross Coker As the dust settles from the 2017 legislative session, among the legislation heading to the Governor’s desk are three significant criminal justice reform-related measures initiated in the Senate. The first, Senate Bill 174, focuses on Georgia’s Accountability Court system and grants more intelligent leeway to use measures that they might feel are appropriate on a case-by-case basis. For example, the legislation would allow the Board of Community Supervision to offer educational or skills-based programs to those on probation to encourage gainful employment and reintegration into society. The bill also sets up the creation of a certificate to be issued to those who complete reentry programs, marking a readiness to reenter society as a productive citizen. SB 174… View Article
By Ross Coker The Georgia Public Policy Foundation and other organizations committed to intelligent criminal justice reform in Georgia, have for some time pointed out Georgia’s astronomical rates of parole and probation, the highest in the nation by far. Georgia has 4,565 adults on probation per 100,000 adults, whereas that number falls to 2,200 for the next state on the list, Rhode Island. Parole and probation join the larger problem in criminal justice reform efforts known as “collateral consequences:” things beyond fines and prison sentences such as restrictions on civic participation that prevent ex-offenders from living the same lives as those who have not, even if they desire to return to a law-abiding, contributory role in society. The justification… View Article

Justice Day 2017

The Georgia Public Policy Foundation participated in the annual Justice Day Initiative in Atlanta on February 2, 2017, at which hundreds of attendees from numerous organizations aligned around the common cause of criminal justice reform. The event was inspiring in uniting groups with diverse backgrounds and stories all in one place as they discussed the best ways to push meaningful reform and educate lawmakers about what needs to be done for effective justice in Georgia. Speakers included Clayton County’s Judge Steve Teske, Chief Judge of the Juvenile Court of Clayton County, who shared stories of successes that have already taken place in Georgia’s campaign for reform. He and others admonished that nobody should become complacent, as there is plenty more… View Article
Matthew Standsberry of the American Legislative Exchange Council wrote about pre-arrest diversion programs in Fulton County, Ga., in a February 3, 2017, article on ALEC’s website. The article is reprinted below; access it at ALEC at www.alec.org/article/georgia-examines-a-pre-arrest-diversion-program/. Georgia Examines a Pre-Arrest Diversion Program By Matthew Standsberry Politicians and citizens from both sides of the aisle have been pushing for criminal justice reform for years. In 2008, a study was released by the Pew Center on the States which identified that more than 2.3 million adults are currently incarcerated in the U.S. in some capacity — amounting to nearly 1 in 100 adults in the United States. In Georgia, this problem is even more severe as one in 13 adults View Article
By Ross Coker With the tumultuous results of the general election, one issue that should not be pushed to the back is the reform of civil asset forfeiture laws to curb abuse and perverse incentives that harm innocent victims and the reputation of law enforcement. Some states, including Georgia, enacted reforms prior to the general election. Others made important changes via ballot measures in November. Criminal justice reform advocates are hopeful positive changes will continue under a new Trump administration. Below is a brief rundown of some notable state approaches to this issue, and their most recent status or change. California: A recent reform bill requires a conviction before forfeiture of assets can take place in cases involving assets… View Article
A legal memorandum by John-Michael Seibler of the Heritage Foundation proposes, “Seven State Criminal Justice Reform Measures for Congress to Consider.” It points out: “A number of states—those laboratories of democracy—are leading the current push for genuine reform that does not involve issuing get-out-of-jail-free cards to those deserving of punishment. The federal government would be well-served by looking to the modest, measured pieces of legislation states have crafted to battle overcriminalization and enact effective criminal justice reform.”  Read the memorandum in its entirety on the Heritage Foundation website here. The measures are  Enact Mens Rea Reform to Decriminalize Morally Innocent Mistakes or Accidents Repeal Outdated, Unnecessary Criminal Laws Codify the Rule of Lenity (guides judicial interpretation of… View Article

Give Prisoners a Second Chance

By Gerard Robinson and Elizabeth English On October 12, 29 prisoners and 45 Baltimore-area experts in criminal justice congregated in the Jessup Correctional Institution library. Most were members of the University of Baltimore community or other academics. All were eager to see the inauguration of a Department of Education pilot program that could change the lives of participants for years to come. In June 2016, the university was chosen among 67 colleges and universities nationwide to participate in the Obama administration’s $30 million Second Chance Pell Grant Experimental Sites Initiative. Under the program, approximately 12,000 of America’s 2.2 million incarcerated will receive federal aid to pursue a higher education. Upon release, they will retain the Pell funding to finish… View Article

Resistance Grows to Civil Asset Forfeiture

By Ross Coker Ross Coker While the discussion and debate over reform for civil asset forfeiture remain ongoing, most Americans still probably do not even know what it means, much less how it is being wielded by law enforcement. Among the think tanks and policy organizations explaining the concept and grading individual states are The Heritage Foundation and The Institute for Justice. They call it “policing for profit.” In brief, the concept of civil asset forfeiture is that two different burdens are proof are used to determine if an individual is guilty of a crime and to determine if the individual’s property is “guilty” of being used for the crime. This presents the strange legal fiction where a car View Article

Reacting to the 2015 FBI Crime Report

By Ross Coker Ross Coker Atlanta – The FBI released its comprehensive report on 2015 crime and crime rates across the nation today (September 26). The report, “Crime in the United States,” highlights some potentially troubling statistics, among them, a 3.1 percent overall increase in the relative overall comparative violent crime rate While this statistic is troubling on its face, there are several crucial points to bear in mind when interpreting the data. First, the rise in crime was relative to the year before. Violent crime has fallen steadily for decades now (and was in fact at half-century record lows) and therefore is more pronounced as an uptick simply because of the low starting point. Furthermore,… View Article
By Benita M. Dodd BENITA DODD Once, Georgia’s most alarming criminal justice statistic was that one resident in 13 was under correctional supervision – imprisoned, jailed, on parole or on probation. Today, thanks to an ongoing series of criminal justice reforms, those numbers are shrinking. The most alarming statistic, however, remains the record number of Georgians on probation. In July 2016, a total of 167,714 offenders were on probation, the state Department of Corrections reports. Last year, nearly 45,000 were sentenced to probation. According to the National Institute of Corrections’ 2014 statistics, Georgia’s rate of 6,161 probationers per 100,000 residents is an astounding 321 percent higher than the national average, at 1,463 per 100,000. The next highest state is… View Article

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