Roadblock to Reform
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Roadblocks to Reform: Perils for Georgia’s Criminal Justice System

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Georgia has the highest rate of adults under correctional control of any state in the country, and its corrections budget reflects this fact. The Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform, with its mandate to investigate problems, examine best practices, and make recommendations to the legislature that will decrease the corrections budget while prioritizing public safety, is an example of the type of thoughtful, careful attention that is required to address these challenges. Contracting out government responsibilities of running correctional facilities and probation supervision to private companies with little accountability, however, only worsens the problems, ultimately driving up costs while compromising public safety.

In evaluating current practices in Georgia and making recommendations for reform, the Special Council should examine the interests of private companies in the further growth of the state’s correctional population and how they have failed to follow through on promised cost savings and standards of quality. The Special Council should also consider these companies’ explicit incentives against criminal justice reform aimed at lowering crime rates while curbing the rise in incarceration rates. Finally, the Special Council should recommend common-sense reforms to cabin the perverse incentives of private companies: increasing transparency, enforcing accountability, and evaluating costs and performance, while also ensuring respect for the constitutional rights of those facing criminal charges or serving prison terms.

Founded in 1976, the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) is a non‐profit public interest law firm dedicated to enforcing the civil and human rights of people involved in the criminal justice system in Georgia and Alabama. SCHR has compelled county, state, and federal governments to make significant improvements in prisons and jails across the South—to reduce overcrowding, provide adequate medical and mental health care, abate violence and abuse, and thereby fulfill their constitutional obligations to protect the people in their custody. SCHR monitors conditions in dozens of jails and prisons and uses litigation and advocacy to ensure compliance with constitutional standards.

SCHR presents this report to the 2012 Criminal Justice Reform Council (“Council”) and Georgia’s citizens with suggested reforms to Georgia’s current criminal justice policies. SCHR’s recommendations are based on sound practices in other states as well as our own expertise over the last 35 years.