That panel submitted its recommendations and the resulting legislation — HB 1176 — passed both the House and the Senate with overwhelming support on both sides of the aisle.
We spoke with Sen. Jason Carter the other day and he said that overall, he thinks this criminal justice package is "a pretty great thing."
"Does it go far enough? Probably not in some areas. Overall, it’s positive step."
The bill's main purpose is to decrease the number of people being sent to prison by reducing the severity of certain lower-level drug and property crimes, and by making use of pre-trial intervention and diversion programs like drug and mental health courts. Lawmakers estimate this could save the state $264 million over the next five years and also improve recidivism rates by allowing people to get help rather than just locking them up.
It also includes a provision that hides from everyone but the courts and law enforcement arrests that didn't result in a conviction.
At the risk of breaking our optimistic streak, there's an aspect of the bill that's concerning: the fee to participate in pre-trial intervention programs was increased from $300 to $1,000. It's a cost of admission that could be prohibitive to lots of people — those who can afford it get a lifeline, those who can't get the shaft. In the zero hour, Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) introduced an amendment to reduce that fee from $1,000 to $600, but it was voted down. The fee is decided upon by the prosecuting attorney, which also seems odd. Sen. Carter submitted an amendment that would have given that power to a judge instead, but he ended up withdrawing it.
Asked if the fee increase constitutes a pay-to-play scenario that disenfranchises the poor, Carter said, "It’s certainly a risk. But ... I have some faith that the prosecutors are not creating a way to buy yourself out of certain punishment and I’m confident they’re trying to reduce recidivism and lower crime. I have faith in the prosecutors."
Mo gibs muh 'dat.
One step forward, two steps back.
Hey "Here's Your Editorial", what does Dale Earnhardt Junior have to do with this article?
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