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Assessing the Impact of Georgia's Sentencing Reforms: Justice Reinvestment Initiative

NCJ Number
Elizabeth Pelletier; Bryce Peterson; Ryan King
Date Published
July 2017
17 pages
This study examined the impact of Georgia's sentencing reforms designed to reduce the massive cost for a prison population that more than doubled between 1990 and 2011.
Reform legislation was enacted through House Bill (H.B.) 1176, which was signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal in May 2012. The legislation aimed to reserve prison space for people convicted of violent offenses, reduce recidivism, relieve crowding in local jails, and improve performance measurement. A key element of the legislation was to restructure offense classification and sentencing policies to reflect offense severity. Based on an analysis of commitments, sentence lengths, and time served, this study found evidence of reduced incarceration for offenses targeted for reduced sentencing by H.B. 1176 reforms. After the bill's passage, the number of probation commitments declined, as did admissions to prison. Mean prison and probation sentence lengths also declined for most offenses. Initial trends also show a decline in time served in prison and on probation. These trends observed in Georgia occurred within a broader context of significant policy change not specifically addressed in H.B. 1176. There were statutory and policy reforms that specifically addressed juvenile justice, and the Georgia Prisoner Reentry Initiative aimed to reduce recidivism among formerly incarcerated people. Georgia is continuing to pursue criminal justice reform through legislation that will likely contribute to changes in the measures analyzed in the current study. 7 figures, 4 tables, and 8 references