Georgia Senate Passes Landmark Criminal Justice Reform Bill

ATLANTA (March 27, 2012) – In a great show of bipartisan support today, the Georgia Senate passed HB 1176 by a vote of 51 to 0. The comprehensive sentencing and corrections reform bill promises to save Georgia taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, move low-level offenders permanently out of the system, and improve overall public safety. Sen. Bill Hamrick (R-Carrollton), a long-time supporter of criminal justice reform in Georgia, carried the bill.

“The common-sense solutions found in this bill are the result of months of work analyzing our state’s corrections system and consulting a wide range of stakeholders,” said Sen. Hamrick. “HB 1176 outlines much-needed reforms that will improve public safety, lower recidivism rates and bring real costs savings to Georgia taxpayers. Without action, taxpayers would have paid $264 million over the next five years to accommodate a rising prison population. I am pleased to see the Senate overwhelmingly support this bill.”

The overall intention of HB 1176 is to strengthen penalties for violent and career criminals, while providing more effective punishments for low-level drug users and property offenders. The creation of a rehabilitation-based system for low-level offenders will free up prison space in order to keep the most dangerous offenders behind bars.

Specific initiatives of HB 1176 include creating a tougher process for probation and parole supervision; expanding proven community-based sentencing options to reduce recidivism, such as accountability courts and substance abuse and mental health programs; and holding agencies accountable for better results by implementing systematic data collection and performance measurement systems.

If signed into law, the legislation will place Georgia in the company of more than a dozen states—including Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina, Arkansas and Kentucky—that are currently implementing criminal justice policies designed to improve public safety, hold offenders accountable, and control corrections costs.

This legislation is the product of more than six months of work by the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians. This bipartisan, inter-branch Council conducted an in-depth analysis of the state’s sentencing and corrections data and met with a wide range of stakeholders including victim advocates, sheriffs, prosecutors and county officials. Members of a special joint legislative committee approved this bill before sending it to the Georgia House of Representatives where the bill passed unanimously.

The next step will be final agreement by the Georgia House of Representatives and Governor Deal to sign the legislation into law.

March 27, 2012

For Information Contact:
Natalie Dale, Director
Jennifer Yarber, Deputy Director