In his state of the state address a few weeks ago, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal promised to support further efforts to curb recidivism and close the revolving door that sends so many Georgians back to prison once released. He wants more drug courts and greater drug treatment programs for those accused of drug-related offenses, hoping to stop the addictions that often lead to criminal behavior.
The speech, which can be read here, touched on education, roads, and business. But near the end, the Governor wanted to talk about the local criminal justice system. He said when education and business fail, many Georgians turn to paths that lead them straight into the courts.
“Last year, faced with one of the most incarcerated populations in the nation, low rehabilitation rates and high recidivism; you joined me in passing legislation to create the Criminal Justice Reform Council.” Deal went on to say his budget proposal reflects a continued commitment to justice reform, including:
- $1.4 million for additional parole officers
- $35.2 million for additional prison beds
- $5.7 million to convert three Pre-Release Centers to Residential Substance Abuse Treatment centers
- $10 million for new Accountability Courts including drug, DUI, and mental health courts
Although the need for additional prison beds speaks to the contrary, the Governor says he is committed to finding help for those offenders that are motivated to use it. In addition to the new prison beds, however, his budget proposal also includes an unknown amount earmarked for a new Youth Detention Center.
One of the keys to reducing the incarceration rate is to send fewer offenders to prison. Crime rates are low, in some places lower than ever, but imprisonment remains high. Why? Because we are sending people to prison for crimes that really post no immediate risk to the public.
Accountability Courts, like DUI and drug courts, are a step in the right direction. These courts require participants to take part in a very intensive program, where they have to appear before a judge sometimes once a week to monitor their progress. Treatment, job training, counseling, and community service are often involved. And though the program is difficult, those who succeed are more likely to stay out of trouble than those who are sentenced to jail or prison instead.
While Georgia currently has several drug and DUI courts throughout the state, more are needed and will be welcomed. If you are facing drug charges and curious about your eligibility to participate in a drug court program, contact our offices today.