SCHR Report Details Georgia Criminal Justice Reform Priorities

21st October, 2011
Southern Center for Human Rights

There is Another Way Report sent to Governor Deal and Criminal Justice Reform Council

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – In anticipation of the release of the findings from Governor Deal’s Criminal Justice Reform Council, the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) released a report today that makes recommendations for necessary criminal justice reforms to curb Georgia’s incarceration crisis. This report, There Is Another Way: How Full Investment in Problem Solving Courts, Sentencing Reform and Public Defense is Critical to Addressing Georgia’s Incarceration Crisis has been sent to members of the Council as well as Georgia criminal justice stakeholders.

Georgia holds the highest rate of correctional control in the nation, with one of every thirteen people being behind bars or on probation or parole. The current economic climate has provided an opportunity for revisiting expensive and ineffective polices that do not contribute to public safety, in some situations even perpetuate the incarceration cycle, and erect barriers for successful reentry into society. Many other states, including Georgia’s immediate neighbors South Carolina and Alabama, have addressed these tough on crime laws, finding ways to provide public safety with less cost to taxpayers.

“SCHR commends Governor Nathan Deal for prioritizing the proposal and passage of evidence-based reforms that address our unnecessary and counterproductive addiction to incarceration,” stated Sara Totonchi, Executive Director of SCHR. “SCHR’s report identifies the areas in which Georgia can make the most effective and sustainable impact and move away from our annual $1 billion plus price tag for prisons.”

The report combines evidence based research, SCHR experience from the field and recommendations for policy changes. SCHR believes that the following areas merit the immediate attention of the Council and should become a part of any recommendations for criminal justice reform submitted to the Governor and the legislature:

•    Georgia must reduce or eliminate the use of incarceration for technical probation violations;
•    Georgia must establish new and expand existing specialized  problem-solving courts including drug, mental health, veterans and child support courts;
•    Georgia must take measures to reduce the likelihood of recidivism by expanding prison programming and reentry planning for people who are incarcerated;
•    Georgia must end mandatory minimum sentencing; and
•    Georgia must improve funding for the public defender system.

Founded in 1976, the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to enforcing the civil and human rights of people involved in the criminal justice system in Georgia and Alabama.  SCHR has compelled county, state, and federal governments to make significant improvements in prisons and jails across the South—to reduce overcrowding, provide adequate medical and mental health care, abate violence and abuse, and thereby fulfill their constitutional obligations to protect the people in their custody.   SCHR monitors conditions in dozens of jails and prisons and uses litigation and advocacy to ensure compliance with constitutional standards.


To read the report, click here.