Nathan Deal aims to cut ‘extraordinarily high’ number of Georgia offenders on probation

Gov. Nathan Deal congratulates Justice Andrew Kimbrough, who is expected to be the first student to get his diploma in December. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Gov. Nathan Deal congratulates Justice Andrew Kimbrough, a student at a charter school in a Georgia prison. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Fresh off another round of changes to Georgia’s criminal justice system, Gov. Nathan Deal said he’ll urge lawmakers next year to tackle the stubborn problem of the “extraordinarily high” number of offenders on probation in Georgia.

He wants to target the rise of “split sentencing” in Georgia – a practice in which a defendant serves part of the sentence behind bars, and then often a greater time outside prison. He called it an “unusual phenomenon, and we don’t know why it’s happening.”

“We have a significantly high number of people who are under probation supervision – an extraordinarily high number compared with most other states,” he said. “You’re going to see the general area of probation being a focus point.”

Georgia led the nation in placing its citizens on probation in 2015 and topped the charts for its probation rate, which critics said reflected an overuse of the system.

The state moved to reform the misdemeanor probation system after an AJC investigation showed courts contract with private probation companies to “supervise” and collect payments from people who can’t afford to pay off expensive traffic tickets and other misdemeanor fines on the day they go to court.

Deal’s Council on Criminal Justice Reform has recommended that lawmakers consider taking another step in 2017 by decriminalizing most traffic violations and rethinking the length of probation terms.

More: Check out Carrie Teegardin’s AJC series on Georgia’s troubled probation system by clicking here and here.

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