As highlighted last week, state lawmakers approved a $19.3 billion budget, listing public safety as one of the state's top priorities.
In an effort to continue strengthening policies that promote the well-being of our citizens, the fiscal year 2013 budget included funding for Georgia's Department of Corrections and the State's Judicial Branch.
During the 2012 session, the General Assembly and Gov. Nathan Deal were successful in securing funding for Georgia's vital public safety services and passing one of the most comprehensive sentencing and corrections reforms to date. The measures are aimed at saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and moving low-level offenders permanently out of the system.
Specific initiatives of the Criminal Justice Reform package include expanding proven community-based sentencing options to reduce recidivism, such as providing cost-effective options like drug courts and substance abuse and mental health programs.
The bill will reform how Georgia allocates taxpayer resources so the state can be more effective in handling convicted drug offenders and ultimately, reduces the likelihood that these offenders will commit new crimes. The proactive approach provides a greater level of personal accountability while also encouraging a more cost- effective alternative to a long prison sentence.
The Department of Corrections and State Judiciary both play a key role in upholding the law of the land and protecting our constitutional rights and statutory mandates. Therefore, preserving funding to these key programs and agencies is necessary to provide a safer future for all Georgians.
FY 2013 budget highlights
• Transferred $2,263,559 for accountability court grants from the Accountability Courts program to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council program and added a total of $429,877 for staff, operations and conferences.
• Added $234,500 for the Resource Center.
• Added two new Superior Court judgeships to be located in Piedmont and Bell-Forsyth Circuits. Zeroed out the $250,000 added previously for senior judges to direct Accountability Courts and added $200,000 for senior judges in circuits with Accountability Courts.
• Added $100,000 for basic senior judges.
• Added $271,150 for deferred promotions for District Attorneys approved in FY2009 and withheld due to budgetary shortfall.
• Added two Assistant District Attorneys for the newly approved judgeships in Piedmont and Bell-Forsyth Circuits.
Department of Corrections
• Added $5,712,007 to convert three Pre-Release Centers (PRCs) to Residential Substance Abuse Treatment Centers (RSATs) to provide 600 additional treatment beds for incarcerated offenders.
• Recognized a savings of $1.8 million dollars from the opening of the Bostick facility for medically fragile offenders.
• Added $35,274,014 to annualize the private prison expansion to 2,860 beds. Removed the $1,368,000 for the Irwin County Detention Center, but included language to utilize other private holding facilities, including Irwin County, to reduce county jail backlog.
• Directed the agency to evaluate closed Pre-Release Centers, or PRCs, for other missions as criminal justice reform is implemented.
Sen. Steve Gooch represents the 51st Senate District, which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Pickens and Union counties and portions of Forsyth and White counties. He may be reached at (404) 656-9221 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.