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Thursday, March 1, 2012 - 2:36pm

Criminal Justice Reform Bill Revised

A special panel of state lawmakers is working to revise the state’s criminal justice code by tweaking a bill that could change Georgia’s criminal justice landscape.

Members of an unusual joint house and senate committee are reviewing the bill to make changes.

The legislation has not yet won the support of Governor Nathan Deal, who has made the issue one of his top priorities this year.

The bill proposes sweeping changes to Georgia’s criminal justice system—from reducing prison terms to more treatment options for non-violent offenders.

A criminal justice reform council found that maintaining current sentencing laws would tack an additional 264 million dollars onto the 1 billion dollars Georgia already spends on prisons. The Governor wants to see more recommendations from the council in the bill.

Chief Judge Jeffrey Bagley from Forsyth County testified that giving drug court judges sentencing flexibility could save the state money:

“Drug court programs work. They work because the data nationally from the National Drug Court Institution suggests that nationwide, they reduce recidivism and they do so at a fiscally responsible cost to taxpayers and they reduce crime.”

The bill would create a new range of sentences for drug possession and a new forgery category.