Launched a five year justice reform initiative that addressed accountability courts, juvenile justice reforms, re-entry programs, sentencing reforms, and others.
• Government Efficiency
• Sentencing Reform
• Collateral Consequences
• Juvenile Justice
• Parole Eligibility
• Georgia’s prison population down 4%
• Number of annual prison commitments at lowest levels since 2002
• Number of African-Americans committed to prison in Georgia is now lower than at any time since 1988
"When I first became Governor I was concerned about something that I was told Republicans shouldn’t really be concerned about and that was the fact that we were the tenth largest state in population but that we had the fourth largest prison population.”
-Governor Nathan Deal
On January 10, 2011, Nathan Deal took the oath of office to become Georgia’s 82nd Governor. Only the second Republican to hold that office since Reconstruction, Deal entered the Governor’s mansion inheriting a growing prison population and a looming budget shortfall.
In 2011, Georgia was on the precipice. It had the fourth highest incarceration rate in the nation, imprisoning about 1 out of every 70 citizens. Between 1990 and 2011, according to reports by the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform, the state’s prison population more than doubled. In that same time period, Georgia’s correctional spending ballooned from $492 million to over $1 billion annually, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill. And the years to come looked even worse: Georgia’s prison population was projected to grow by another eight percent over the next five years to 60,000 inmates, well outpacing the national average.
The state had reached a crossroads. It could continue down the costly path of over-incarceration and over-criminalization, or it could choose to carve out a different path. That path, modeled on Texas initiative from over a decade before, would focus on community-based alternatives to prison, take a hard look at reclassifying low-level drug offenses, and expand opportunities for offenders to successfully re-enter society.
In his first Inaugural address, Governor Deal reaffirmed his commitment to the core responsibilities and limitations of government. “I was not elected to make easy decisions, but difficult ones,” he reminded the electorate as he spoke on Georgia’s need to move past the tough on crime, “lock ‘em up” rhetoric of the past.
In the six succeeding years, Deal stood by that promise and partnered with the General Assembly to secure the passage of five comprehensive justice reform measures. Each piece of legislation, one for nearly every year of Deal’s governorship, sought to reform a different sector of Georgia’s justice system. From juvenile justice to reentry, sentencing reform to civil asset forfeiture, he has consistently championed policies that are cost-effective, responsive, and focused on public safety without coming at the expense of rehabilitation.
As a result, Georgia’s prison population stands at 52,683 as of January 20, 2017–down from a peak of 54, 895 in July 2012. The number of annual prison commitments has dropped to its lowest since 2002. The number of African-Americans committed to prison in Georgia is now lower than at any time since 1988.