Speaker David Ralston, Gov. Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, and Ga. Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol Hunstein
Gov. Nathan Deal, along with Speaker David Ralston, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Chief Justice Carol Hunstein, Rep. Jay Neal and many others, today unveiled Neal’s legislation to establish the 2011 Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgia.
“With this new commission in place, we hope to uncover new approaches to make Georgia communities safer while increasing offender accountability, improving rehabilitation efforts and lowering costs,” said Deal. “While this effort should ultimately uncover strategies that will save taxpayer dollars, we are first and foremost attacking the human costs of a society with too much crime, too many people behind bars, too many children growing up without a much-needed parent and too many wasted lives.”
Deal also noted the troubling numbers Georgia faces in terms of crime: Georgia has the fourth-largest prison system in the nation and that in the last two years alone the state’s overall prison population has grown 4.6 percent.
“That growth has taken us to a place where our budgets no longer reflect our priorities,” he said. “Between 1987 and 2008, national higher education spending increased 24 percent. In that same period corrections spending increased 137 percent. We now spend $3,800 a year for a K-12 student, $6,300 a year per university system college student and an overwhelming $18,000 a year to house an inmate in our state prisons.
“That math does not work for Georgia. Today costs are too high, recidivism rates are too high and rehabilitation is too rare.”
Deal thanked both the Pew Center on the States and the Georgia Public Policy Foundation for their leadership and guidance on the issue. The newly created council is to report its findings and recommendations to the legislature no later than Jan. 9, 2012.
“For violent and repeat offenders, we will make you pay for your crimes,” he said. “As a state, we cannot afford to have so many of our citizens waste their lives because of addictions. It is draining our state Treasury and depleting our workforce.”