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Dealing with states prison population
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We returned to the House chamber on Monday, Jan. 23, welcoming friends from all counties that comprise District 157.  It was great to see folks from home at the Capitol.

The Speaker of the House challenged the House Special Committee on Small Business Development and Job Creation to undertake serious regulation reform in order to help spur our state economy and create jobs for Georgians. The initiative, called “Red Tape Watch,” charges the House Special Committee on Small Business Development and Job Creation to spend this legislative session reviewing and evaluating Georgia’s current regulatory environment. To do this, the special committee will meet periodically throughout the 2012 legislative session to hear directly from small business owners about burdensome or onerous state regulations that unnecessarily hinder economic development, business growth, and job creation in Georgia. These meetings will allow us to identify opportunities to further shrink the size of our state government and thereby help create an economic environment that fosters job creation and is conducive to the growth of strong small businesses throughout the state.

We also gained insight into our state’s court systems when State Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol Hunstein delivered her State of the Judiciary Address, which primarily focused on the recommendations of the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform.

The special council was a joint effort by Chief Justice Hunstein, Gov. Deal, Speaker Ralston, Lt. Gov. Cagle, Representative Jay Neal, and others to develop a more cost effective corrections system in Georgia. After concluding an in-depth review of our state’s current justice system and those of other states, the council published a report of its findings. According to the report, non-violent drug and property offenders represent almost 60 percent of prison admissions.

With each prisoner costing taxpayers $49 a day, it is no surprise that Georgia spends $1 billion a year on our corrections system.

Instead of sending these low-risk, non-violent, first offenders to an expensive prison, where they often learn to become hardened criminals, the council’s report recommends cost effective alternatives, like community treatment at a day reporting center for $16 a day or probation supervision for $1.50 a day.

The strategies recommended by Chief Justice Hunstein and the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform have been proven to save taxpayers’ dollars and decrease crime in other states.  For example, Texas avoided the need for $2 billion in new prison construction and is actually closing a prison down, after making an investment in diversion and treatment centers.  More importantly, after introducing these prison-alternatives, Texas saw its lowest crime rate in 37 years.

As we continue to work over the next several weeks, I hope to hear from you and learn about your views on regulation reform and criminal justice reform. You can call my Capitol office at (404) 656-5099 or email me at

Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.