Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Law Change Doesn't Affect Current Inmates; Georgia's Revision to Criminal Justice Laws Reduces Some Sentences

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Law Change Doesn't Affect Current Inmates; Georgia's Revision to Criminal Justice Laws Reduces Some Sentences

Article excerpt

Byline: Walter C. Jones

ATLANTA | Despite the back slapping and congratulations about unanimous support in the General Assembly for revision to the criminal justice laws, the new legislation awaiting the governor's signature has no impact on the tens of thousands of Georgians behind bars.

"The answer to the question 'Will it do anything for people already in prison?' is almost completely 'no,' " said Sara Totonchi, policy director for the Southern Center for Human Rights.

The bill will reduce sentences for low-dollar thefts, forgery, burglary and small-time drug offenses committed after it becomes law. People already convicted must serve out the sentences for the law they broke at the time, not the new one, experts say.

The original draft of the measure, House Bill 1176, did include a provision that would have moved those with long sentences to probation six months before their release to ease their transition to society. The 13-member commission that authored the basis for HB 1176 recommended it.

NO SUPERVISION

In 2010, 7,495 offenders who were paroled had no supervision to follow, the commission's November report said.

Among that number, 1,592 also had no probation supervision to follow meaning they were freed without any supervision, the report said.

"These offenders include serious and even some chronic offenders, and by requiring that offenders serve time on parole, parole officers can provide supervision while these offenders transition back into the community," the report said.

The commission also advised rewarding offenders for good behavior by reducing their probation.

"We did not see any of those make it to the finish line in this bill," Totonchi said.

Both the transition and the rewards are missing from the version sitting on Gov. Nathan Deal's desk. …

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