Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson said he fully supports a law signed last week that will revamp how the state’s criminal justice system punishes nonviolent criminals.
With prisons and jails overcrowded throughout the state, Gov. Nathan Deal signed “historic reforms” into law through House Bill 1176, which will “revolutionize how Georgia punishes nonviolent crimes by seeking alternative treatments where possible and preserving expensive prison beds for offenders who pose a danger to society,” he said in a statement.
There should be alternatives to jail for nonviolent inmates, Anderson said.
“I’m all for alternate punishments for nonviolent criminals,” he said. “The violent ones are where they need to be.”
A few years ago, the Bulloch County Jail suffered overcrowding and many inmates had to be housed in other counties at the expense of county taxpayers, he said. A jail expansion solved that issue, and today other counties and federal agencies pay Bulloch County to house inmates here -- which Anderson said shows that the issue of overcrowding still exists in other areas across the state.
There are alternatives to jail, such as placing ankle monitors on probation violators and others who are arrested or convicted of nonviolent crimes.
“We looked into ankle monitors, but they also have to have somebody to provide supervision,” and there wasn't enough room in the budget at the time, Anderson said.
Deal said alternative punishments should lower costs statewide.
“With this bold new direction in criminal justice, we will bolster public safety, increase our chances of rehabilitating lives and bend the unsustainable cost curve we face in our prison system,” he said. “We spend $1.2 billion a year on our prison system and those costs were set to soar far beyond what we can afford. That makes no sense for taxpayers when there are most cost-effective means that have better outcomes.”
The Criminal Justice Reform Council worked all year on the overhaul, receiving input from all corners of the state.
“… I have asked the members to continue their work through this year to explore other areas for reforms,.” Deal said. “The result was a piece of legislation with support so deep that it passed unanimously in both chambers of the Legislature.”
This will pay dividends to taxpayers in key ways, including less money going to the prison system and more people returning to the workforce and supporting their families, he said.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.