Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Howard: Jail Time Too Short Lt. Governor Calls Sentencing Flawed

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Howard: Jail Time Too Short Lt. Governor Calls Sentencing Flawed

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- A new commission began work yesterday considering

whether the state should set prison sentences largely without

parole, eliminating what Lt. Gov. Pierre Howard called a "flawed

system."

Howard, who is running for governor in 1998, has advocated

sentencing guidelines -- similar to those in North Carolina and

Florida -- that he said would help assure the public that

criminals serve their full prison terms.

Current estimates are that on average, prisoners serve between

25 percent to 30 percent of their sentences in Georgia, although

violent, repeat offenders are behind bars much longer.

"The people of this state are very concerned about crime. They

perceive, and I agree with them, that the way we do business,

the way we're sentencing prisoners, is flawed," Howard told the

commission.

"The main thing I want to accomplish is I want to restore the

confidence [in the system] that's been lost. We have set up a

flawed system."

Howard created the commission, through a Senate resolution, to

consider whether the state should develop ranges of punishment

that judges would have to adhere to in setting sentences. The

system essentially would eliminate early release for new

inmates.

Former Attorney General Michael Bowers, who also is running for

governor, has advocated legislation mandating inmates serve at

least 85 percent of their sentences.

In Georgia, violent, repeat offenders already face mandatory

life in prison without parole under the state's "two strikes and

you're in" law.

However, Ronald Wright, a sentencing expert and law professor

at Wake Forest University, said the percentage of sentences

served in Georgia prisons actually fell from 42 percent a few

years ago to 29 percent in 1996. …

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