Category: Crime

By Mike Klein Georgians appear ready to embrace juvenile justice reforms that would focus the state’s lock-ups on higher-level offenders and put new emphasis on less expensive and more effective community resources for lower-level offenders.  And by Georgians, we mean folks out there in the real world, well beyond the State Capitol in Atlanta. A newly released poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies and the Mellman Group for the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Public Safety Performance Project found proposed reforms in HB 242 enjoy widespread support among conservatives, liberals and independents.  The bill would enact recommendations from the 2012 Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform. HB 242 is scheduled for its first Senate hearing on Wednesday; it unanimously passed the House.… View Article
By Mike Klein The Georgia House voted 173 – 0 Thursday morning to pass juvenile justice and civil code reforms that would dramatically change our response to young people who commit crimes, run away,  violate probation or who are in desperate need of services.  HB 242, the biggest rethink in Georgia juvenile strategies in decades, is a massive 244-page bill that would rewrite juvenile justice and civil code.  Now the bill moves to the Senate.  (Watch the House floor discussion and vote.) Friday the House is scheduled to vote on HB 349, companion legislation for the adult system that would change the minimum mandatory sentencing laws for drug trafficking and other serious felony crimes.  The bill would also create… View Article

New Criminal Justice Reform Council Proposed Through 2023

By Mike Klein Georgia would establish an ongoing criminal justice reform council to oversee adult and juvenile justice issues in the state as part of proposed sentencing and corrections legislation being considered by policymakers this session. In addition, adult criminal court judges would be allowed to depart from minimum mandatory sentences in a significantly small number of drug trafficking cases under legislation now before a House committee.  Many of the provisions in  HB 349, now before a House committee, were developed by the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform.  The Special Council’s juvenile justice recommendations are contained in HB 242. This week will be important for both pieces of legislation.  Tuesday afternoon, the House Judiciary committee members voted… View Article
By Mike Klein Georgians will need a comfy couch, lots of time and perhaps some caffeine when they begin to read newly introduced juvenile justice and civil code legislation.  Juvenile justice provisions in  House Bill 242 include a proposal to completely revise the state’s 32-year-old juvenile Designated Felony Act, a long overdue step forward, by creating two classes of more and less serious juvenile felony crimes. Juvenile civil code revisions would update laws that govern how juvenile courts operate and the rights of minors in custody and other situations.  The legislation is a comfy couch read at 244 pages.  The juvenile justice sections closely follow the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform recommendations, which were released in December.  Civil… View Article
By Mike Klein Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol Hunstein declared the state is at a “crossroads in juvenile justice history” and challenged the General Assembly to expand mental health services for “clearly disturbed youngsters” during her final State of the Judiciary address, telling lawmakers, “We wait for the explosion and it will come” unless courts have more resources for dealing with juveniles who are clearly at risk to themselves and others. Hunstein delivered her final State of the Judiciary Address to the General Assembly Thursday morning in Atlanta.  Her term as Chief Justice expires later this year.  Hunstein devoted a major section of her remarks to adult and juvenile justice system reforms.  Legislators enacted the start of adult reforms… View Article
By Mike Klein Each year Georgia law enforcement seizes millions of dollars in personal property from people who were never charged with or convicted of a crime.  There was merely the suspicion that a crime had been committed, and that the property might somehow be connected to the crime that never happened. The story gets worse for property owners.  Georgia state law permits law enforcement agencies to sell the property and keep the proceeds.  The exact annual dollar value of these seizures and sales is unknown because law enforcement agencies have largely failed to file required reports. This is what the Institute for Justice  (IJ) said about Georgia civil asset forfeiture policies in a new report released Wednesday: “Georgia’s civil… View Article
By Mike Klein Discussion about mental health and other substance abuse treatment alternatives was front and center Wednesday when criminal justice system officials addressed House and Senate joint appropriations lawmakers at the State Capitol.  “Mental health is a huge issue in all the things we do,” Judge Robin W. Shearer said on behalf of the Council of Juvenile Court Judges. Georgia is in the early stages of significant adult and juvenile justice system reforms that focus on how to ensure incarceration for the most serious offenders, and how to provide community treatment options for offenders who do not benefit from or even require incarceration. Last year the General Assembly passed reforms to move the adult corrections system toward those goals.  … View Article
By Mike Klein Georgia would establish a two-tiered system for felonies committed by juveniles younger than 18 years old if the 2013 General Assembly adopts recommendations unanimously approved Thursday morning by the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform   As currently written, it builds on principles similar to adult criminal justice system reforms enacted this year. The Special Council final report will be released on Governor Nathan Deal’s website next week.  It also contains a small number of adult system proposals.  Notably, the Council repeated its 2011 recommendation that judges be allowed to depart from mandatory sentence minimums in some drug trafficking cases and under specific circumstances.  Drug convictions are largely responsible for the explosive growth in state prison populations not… View Article
By Mike Klein What you are about to read is a big deal:  Georgia has significantly reduced the number of state custody male inmates sitting in local county jails.  Georgia corrections commissioner Brian Owens made the announcement this week during a Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform meeting in Forsyth.  His comment so surprised judges, legislators, prosecutors and others that several let out a huge gasp. “As a result of the legislation and your recommendations, today we have zero males … zero males … in county jails waiting to come into the state system,” Owens said.  “We have about 200 females but we’re going to address that come January and February.  We’ll be able to get the females out. That… View Article

End of an Era: Georgia Begins to Close Parole Offices

By Mike Klein Georgia is moving quickly toward the end of an era as parole offices are being closed at a pace that will see most of them completely shuttered within the next calendar year.  A handful already are closed, about another dozen will close within weeks and the remainder will close as the state moves away from real estate toward reliance on parole officer-friendly remote technology. “The day of the parolee reporting to a parole office is long gone,” said Michael Nail, executive director of the state board of Pardons and Paroles.  Virtual offices – two-man parole teams in vehicles – will replace real estate.  “Our officers will be in the community where parolees reside and work and it’s… View Article

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