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January 26, 2012

"Georgia chief justice calls for sentencing reforms"

The title of this post is the headline of this recent piece from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which gets started this way:

Georgia's chief justice on Wednesday called on lawmakers to enact sentencing reforms that steer nonviolent offenders away from costly prison sentences, saying, "we now know that being tough on crime is not enough."

In a 25-minute address before a joint session of the Legislature, Chief Justice Carol Hunstein asked lawmakers to adopt proposals by the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform that studied Georgia's sentencing and corrections system.  The state can no longer afford to spend more than $1 billion a year to maintain the nation's fourth-highest incarceration rate, she said.

The initiative, supported by Gov. Nathan Deal and Democratic and Republican leaders, calls for increased funding for drug, mental health and veterans' courts across the state and for other alternatives to prison.  Legislation is being drafted and will be introduced in the coming weeks, said Brian Robinson, a spokesman in the governor's office.  Deal's budget plan already asks for $10 million for new accountability courts.

Hunstein, a member of the special council, said its members "began united in our belief that warehousing nonviolent offenders who are addicted to drugs or are mentally ill does nothing to improve the public safety.  Indeed, in the long run, it threatens it."

Accountability courts address the roots of crime and reduce recidivism, she said.  "If we simply throw low-risk offenders into prison, rather than holding them accountable for their wrongdoing and addressing the source of their criminal behavior, they merely become hardened criminals who are more likely to re-offend when they are released."

In addition to viewing these comments by Georgia's chief justice to be substantively notable, I also find fascinating the tradition(?) of having the state's top jurist address a joint session of the state legislature.  Imagine if there was such a tradition in the federal system: what do folks think Chief Justice Roberts might decided to talk about in an address to Congress?

January 26, 2012 at 02:51 PM | Permalink

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The effort, reinforced by Gov. Nathan Cope and Democratic and Republican management, needs improved financing for pharmaceutical, psychological health and veterans' legal courts across the state

Posted by: Resume objectives | Jan 27, 2012 1:26:34 AM

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