Wed., January 19, 2011 4:56pm (EST)

State Prison Reform Can Save Money
By Susanna Capelouto
Updated: 4 years ago

ATLANTA, Ga.  —  
As the state budget is getting slimmer, the state wants fewer prisoners. (GPB Image)
As the state budget is getting slimmer, the state wants fewer prisoners. (GPB Image)
Locking up non-violent offenders and keeping them in jail too long is costing too much. That's the message of Georgia Department of Corrections commissioner Brian Owens. As the state budget is getting slimmer, the state wants fewer prisoners.

Reforming Georgia's prison system to save money was the first agenda item of Governor Deal's inauguration speech. Corrections commissioner Brian Owens followed through in budget hearings. He says 40 percent of Georgia's prisoners are non violent offenders who are costing the state billions of dollars to stay locked up. He says the public expects better and cheaper results.

"I think they're trying to get the fact that if we hold defenders accountable on the street, we provide them with addiction services, provide mental health treatment; we drug test them every other day, make them pay restitution to the vicitm, that's what the public really wants."

Owens says the state currently has 13 day reporting centers that offer such services. He'd like to see that number doubled, but his budget for next year does not yet reflect that increase.