by: Mark Winne Updated:ATLANTA,None —
A Channel 2 Action News investigation has exposed convicted felons repeatedly put on probation after committing more crimes, and now the governor wants a criminal justice overhaul.
Gov. Nathan Deal said the number of criminals put on probation after committing additional crimes startled him.
Deal's staff said the governor's new approach to crimes involves innovative programs hitting on job skills, drug treatment,
education, and steering offenders who can be saved away from a life of crime.
The governor said he hopes to stop wasted lives but deal appropriately with chronic criminals.
"If you can deal with that individual effectively, and they do not reappear in your criminal justice
system, then you have saved a huge amount of money," Deal said.
Deals said public safety is a top concern him, along with saving money at the same time.
"Yes, it is about both. Yes, saving money and keeping society safe," Deal
said, talking of a long-term goal of criminal justice reform
"If the legislature buys into your program, this will be the biggest change in criminal justice in Georgia in decades?" Winne said.
"I think it will be and I think we are fortunate that we have had every aspect of the criminal justice system to buy into initially," Deal said.
The governor seemed to suggest an early component of his new approach is expanding so-called "accountability courts," where eligible suspects are put under strict
requirements, which may include getting a GED or further education, employment, surprise drug tests.
"I think the real difference is if they are found not to be in a functioning capacity, then prison is the alternative," Deal said. "We are programming about
$10 million of additional money for that purpose in this year's budget proposal to the general assembly.
Winne showed the governor his findings about multiple probations.
"I think it is one of the strongest endorsements you can have that the current system is not working appropriately and we do need some reforms," Deal said.
The state probation director said about 28 percent of Georgia probationers, which reaches into the thousands, are on probation for more than one felony case at the same time.
He said about 2 percent have five or more simultaneous cases.
"In this economy, can we afford all this?" Winne asked Deal.
"I think that we can't afford not to," Deal said.
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