Program Excellence Award for Outstanding Partnerships: Intergovernmental Cooperation Populations Greater Than 50,000; Savannah, Georgia

Article excerpt

This year, ICMA's Program Excellence Award for Intergovernmental Cooperation in the greater-than-50,000 category goes to the city of Savannah, Georgia, and City Manager Michael B. Brown for the Savannah Impact Program.

In 2001, the city of Savannah (pop. 131,510) and the county of Chatham (pop. 232,048), Georgia recorded a 22 percent rise in the number of Part I violent crime incidences since 1998. The jurisdictions recognized that a large portion of the violent crime in Savannah, as well as elsewhere in Georgia, was committed by a relatively small number of repeat offenders, most of whom were on parole or probation. With this in mind, the Savannah Impact Program (SIP) was conceived. Comprising the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department, State Board of Pardons and Paroles, Georgia Department of Corrections, Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, and Georgia Department of Labor, SIP is a collaborative antirecidivism/offender reentry effort that knits together an intergovernmental team to provide intensive supervision and services to high-risk parolees/probationers. Each of the member agencies staffs SIP cooperatively with dedicated in-house employees, who work together as a unit, sharing information in a positive, structured program to give offenders a real second chance.

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Georgia has the eighth-largest prison population and ranks fifth in incarceration rates nationally. National studies consistently show that well over half of all offenders in the criminal justice system reoffend within three years of their original criminal conviction. Of the 15,000 + inmates released from Georgia prisons annually, 36 percent are convicted of a new felony or misdemeanor offense within three years. And as of April 2003, Chatham County alone had more than 4,000 people on active felony probation, an additional 1,093 on unsupervised status, and 1,100 on parole.

One study in Chatham County reported that 87 percent of adult offenders had less than a high school education, 83 percent tested below an eighth-grade math level, 68 percent tested below an eighth-grade reading level, and 68 percent were unemployed at the time of their offense. The data confirm that corrective measures must be directed toward the core problems afflicting offenders--substance abuse, poor education, and lack of job skills--with more effective sanctions and support for offenders who want to remain out of prison. Of course, most parolees/probationers are directed to obtain substance abuse counseling, abide by curfews, perform community service, or meet other specific conditions. …