Georgia Governor Signs Bill to Strengthen Probation and Increase Public Safety

May 10, 2017

On May 9, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed Senate Bill (SB) 174.

What Does SB 174 Mean for Georgia residents?

  • Meaningful supervision will increase public safety. Supervision resources will be focused on people during the first two to three years of their probation terms when they are most likely to reoffend. With reduced caseloads, probation officers will be able to effectively use evidence-based supervision strategies that have been proven to successfully reduce recidivism.
  • To encourage success on supervision, probation terms will be lowered for certain people. People who are sentenced to probation for first-time offenses will receive a behavioral incentive date (BID). If a person remains in compliance with the terms of his or her supervision, has no new arrests, and has paid all restitution prior to reaching the BID, his or her probation will be reduced from an average term of five years to no more than three years.
  • Fines and fees will be waived for people who are deemed unable to pay them. Even after years on supervision, many people on probation have trouble paying fines, fees, and surcharges. The conditions that allow someone to be classified as indigent will be expanded, and if a person on probation is unable to pay legal financial obligations, other than restitution, a judge must waive the obligations or direct the person to complete community service to pay the fine.

Why Is SB 174 Needed?

Georgia has the highest probation rate in the country, with 1 in 17 adults on probation. This is double the rate in Texas and four times the rate in North Carolina. Roughly 50,000 people in Georgia have been on supervision for more than two years and must continue to be actively supervised by probation officers even though research shows that people are most likely to recidivate within the first year of their supervision term. Probation terms in Georgia average five years regardless of risk of reoffending and can be shortened to three years without an adverse impact on public safety.

How Was SB 174 Developed?

Since January 2016, Georgia has been using a data-driven justice reinvestment approach to address issues within its criminal justice system. In May of that year, the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform established subcommittees, co-chaired by Justice Michael P. Boggs of the Supreme Court of Georgia and Carey A. Miller, Esq., Deputy Executive Counsel, Office of the Governor, to analyze felony sentencing trends and the effectiveness of probation. These subcommittees were established to develop policies that would help lower the high probation rate and large caseloads while still bolstering public safety. SB 174 is the culmination of those efforts.

Learn more about the passage of the legislation here and here.

Access the report issued by the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform as well as criminal justice system analysis presentations that were delivered to the Council here.

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