Georgia to Rethink Incarcerating Non-Violent Drug Offenders

Republican Governor Nathan Deal was sworn into office in Georgia today. Addressing budget issues, he said:

"Presently, one out of every 13 Georgia residents is under some form of correctional control," Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, told state lawmakers during his inaugural address. "It cost about $3 million per day to operate our Department of Corrections. And yet, every day criminals continue to inflict violence on our citizens and an alarming number of perpetrators are juveniles."

From his inaugural speech: [More..]

“For violent and repeat offenders, we will make you pay for your crimes. For other offenders who want to change their lives, we will provide the opportunity to do so with Day Reporting Centers, Drug, DUI and Mental Health Courts and expanded probation and treatment options. As a State, we cannot afford to have so many of our citizens waste their lives because of addictions. It is draining our State Treasury and depleting our workforce…

Some national statistics are assembled here. Georgia isn't the only state beginning to recognize the war on drugs is a costly failure. Many state legislators are also proposing changes (here's one in New Jersey.)

Here's the 2010 Bureau of Justice Statistics report on incarcerated prisoners in the U.S. (Analysis here.) We also need to support Attorney General Eric Holder's Prisoner Re-Entry Task Force.

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    I worked with pretty hardcore kids... (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Dadler on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 01:27:35 PM EST
    ...at an alternative high school school program, gads, already two decades ago now almost. All of these guys (15-17 years old) were current or former gang members in east L.A. county, all had done time in juvie, many of their friends were doing hard time in prison, many already had kids of their own, and when together in class, in a group, they were almost impossible to deal with (oddly, or maybe not so, I recall that a viewing of "Dances with Wolves" on video really captivated them); but alone, getting one on one time with me, either in tutoring or just talking, they revealed themselves as simply terribly neglected children. I remember clearly hanging Halloween decorations around the classroom one afternoon with the youngest kid in my class, who was just shy of 15 (the youngest, I kid you not, of 13 kids at home, too) and so tiny you'd think he was 9 or 10.  He was just like a happy little boy helping me decorate. The next Monday, however, when he failed to show for class, the other guys told me he'd been arrested after jumping and almost killing a rival gang member with some other kids.  Whether bravado embellishment or not, they included the detail that a pitchfork was used on the kid who was attacked.  Hard to say kids in that violent context, but the truth remains. And prison is no place for kids. Period.

    Realize that was kind of OT (none / 0) (#2)
    by Dadler on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 01:29:32 PM EST
    Just got me thinking about incarceration in general for kids. Feel free to delete it.

    We probably discussed this before, but-- (none / 0) (#13)
    by oculus on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 05:36:36 PM EST
    have you read Mark Salzman's "True Notebooks"?

    I have not (none / 0) (#16)
    by Dadler on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 06:42:52 PM EST
    Been recommended before.  I think my own experience left me feeling no need to supplement.  My job was a strange one, I was more like an assistant teacher, and the the class really a makeshift holding pen. The neglect these kids were products of, again, seemed profound beyond measure.  Had my long hair and beard working then, and they all called me Jesus. I chuckle remembering it.

    Something good coming of the budget crisis (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by ruffian on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 03:10:28 PM EST
    at any rate. On the other hand, there go the unemployment statistics.

    Some jobs.. (5.00 / 0) (#6)
    by kdog on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 03:34:18 PM EST
    we don't want nor need too many of ruffian...prison guard is one of them.

    Let's hope this type of thinking catches on and our collective hearts soften because of it.  It's a shame economics is what drives it, and not human rights and humanitarianism...but I'll take it.


    methinks ruffian was more referring (none / 0) (#7)
    by BTAL on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 03:36:44 PM EST
    to a large increase in unemployed, aka former inmates.

    Indeed I was (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by ruffian on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 04:14:06 PM EST
    I don't worry much about guards being able to find other jobs these days.

    Duh... (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by kdog on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 07:10:55 PM EST
    sorry to misinterpret.

    Better free and hungry than caged and fed....food is easier to come by than freedom.


    That's not nice (none / 0) (#12)
    by jbindc on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 05:05:52 PM EST
    Those people, who don't make tons of money, also have families to help support.

    The dirty done... (none / 0) (#19)
    by kdog on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 07:12:40 PM EST
    to pay a mortgage...very very few are clean, though some animals are dirtier than others.

    Oh, for gawd's sake. Don't generalize. (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by oculus on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 07:14:45 PM EST
    Ok boss... (none / 0) (#21)
    by kdog on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 07:20:09 PM EST
    I don't think saying "corrections" is a shadier trade than carpentry or farming is so terrible...but in the spirit of bringing the love, I'll try to give screws more benefit of the doubt.

    It's just a job. And, although the pay (none / 0) (#22)
    by oculus on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 07:22:35 PM EST
    and overtime and benefits can add up to a decent living, think of where these people have to live and work?  Imperial Co. CA, Bakersfield.  Awwwk.  Actually, I've represented more than a few correctional officers and found them to be quite ordinary people with ordinary concerns.  

    Just a job.... (none / 0) (#23)
    by kdog on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 07:27:27 PM EST
    "Sorry, Luke. I'm just doing my job. You gotta appreciate that."

    "Nah - calling it your job don't make it right, Boss."

    - Cool Hand Luke

    And the same goes for me when the orders are dirty...it's my job, but it don't make it right.


    Uh. That was a movie! (none / 0) (#24)
    by oculus on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 07:28:20 PM EST
    Yep... (none / 0) (#25)
    by kdog on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 07:45:59 PM EST
    a gem of a film...ya can't learn from art?

    Got me there. (none / 0) (#26)
    by oculus on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 07:53:46 PM EST
    They make good money and benefits (none / 0) (#15)
    by oculus on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 05:38:03 PM EST
    in CA.  Many are military veterans.  Perhaps next step would be a law enforcement job for a state/city/county, except funds for such jobs are in short supply.

    From the Bureau of Labor Statistics (none / 0) (#17)
    by jbindc on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 06:48:13 PM EST
    Probably both (none / 0) (#9)
    by jbindc on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 03:59:37 PM EST
    We take (none / 0) (#8)
    by Zorba on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 03:38:16 PM EST
    what we can get, Dog.  It's at least a start.

    Don't think (none / 0) (#3)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 02:40:41 PM EST
    this is out of the goodness of Deal's heart. He has a daughter and a son in law who might be looking at time for falsifying a bankruptcy and he himself has money laundering issues.

    That being said Georgia's criminal justice system really stinks. Maybe this will start off some reform in the system.

    Ah, you cynic! (none / 0) (#14)
    by oculus on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 05:36:53 PM EST
    Say It Ain't So Ronny (none / 0) (#4)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 02:42:49 PM EST
    If Reagan wasn't already dead, this news would have killed him.

    It's about fricken time a politician put common sense above ideology and/or career ambition.  Never thought I would see a republican governor promote social programs for drug users over incarceration.

    I just hope others follow suit and we can use prisons for their intended purpose.  PrisonCorp isn't going to like this.

    One day, hopefully in my lifetime, they will realize that's is far easier to control drugs with taxation than with zero-tolerance.

    Don't incarcerate Al Capone either? (none / 0) (#27)
    by diogenes on Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 10:03:05 PM EST
    "Georgia is rethinking incarcerating those convicted of nonviolent drug crimes."  Prosecutors and judges have great latitude in choosing whether to prosecute or offer pleas/drug court to first time offenders.  It's a lot easier to prosecute a violent gangbanger for possession than to find someone willing to risk life and limb to "snitch" about crimes of violence.
    By this reasoning, incarcerating Al Capone for nonviolent tax evasion was just as silly.