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Reforming criminal justice
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Georgia’s growing prison population (fourth in the U.S.) and the $1.1 billion yearly cost caused Gov. Deal to form the Criminal Justice Reform Council last year and the council issued its findings this fall. Gov. Deal has started to address the issue through budget and policy initiatives starting with his FY12 and FY13 budgets.

Chief Justice Carol Hunstein of the Georgia Supreme Court gave her “State of the Judiciary” address this week and highlighted the problems that reinforced Gov. Deal’s actions. She pointed out that two-thirds of the 10,000 young people incarcerated were in prison for substance abuse problems and that one-thirds of those have mental health issues. She advocated for alternative courts focused on treating adults with drug addiction and courts that deal with veterans.

Gov. Deal’s budgets reflect a start in implementing the findings of the Reform Council.

FY2012 amended budget:

$6 million for a facility at a former prison for renovations to provide 150 beds for medically fragile offenders who will be paroled.

$3.4 million to fund operations and open the 80-bed Atlanta Youth Development Campus (Department of Juvenile Justice).

$1.3 million to add 50 non-secure residential beds in DJJ.

The FY 2013 general budget proposes these additions:

$10 million for grants to counties for accountability courts including drug courts, mental health courts and veterans courts. These are post-conviction or prison alternative courts which provide close judicial oversight.

Reflects savings of $1.8 million due to the opening of the facility for paroled medically fragile offenders.

$1.4 million for 20 additional parole officers to oversee re-entry of offenders who will serve their maximum sentence.

On the policy side, legislation is being considered addressing what constitutes a misdemeanor and a felony, sentence reform and mental health issues in jails and prisons.

Legislation introduced
Passed House, now in Senate

HB 351—Increases fees in probate court to $3, which go into the Probate Judge Retirement Fund.

Introduced bills

SB 307—Allows for a one-day saltwater shore fishing license that may be purchased by residents and non-residents for a fee of $5.

SB 309—Known as “Taylor’s Law” this gives the commissioner of Department of Natural Resources authority to issue a hunting license for any person under 21 years who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness to hunt, waiving legal weapons requirements, antler restrictions, quota limitations, or hunter education requirements. The person who is hunting must be under the direct supervision of a licensed adult hunter. The license is good for one year.

SB 312—Those receiving food stamps and temporary assistance could be required to engage in personal growth activities such as earning general education development diploma, technical education, adult literacy classes, and/or self-development classes.

SB 319—DNR could allow privately-owned boats to be used at state parks

SB 325—Sets up a process for registering to vote online.  

SB 327—Veterans attending college could pay their college tuition in installments or as funds are provided from the Veterans Administration.

SB 350—Allows a firearm used in a crime to be returned to the owner if the owner was not involved in the crime.

If you would like additional information regarding a specific piece of legislation, you may access the Georgia General Assembly Web site at
I may be reached at
234 State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334
(404) 656-5038 (phone)
(404) 657-7094 (fax)
E-mail at
Or call toll-free at
1-800-367-3334 day or night
 Reidsville office: (912) 557-3811
See page 9A for more
from our state legislators