Sweeping assessment by GA officials will take a hard look at state’s prison system

GEORGIA — Channel 2 Action News has learned of a sweeping plan to find out what is working and not working in Georgia’s prison system.

The success of this plan can affect the lives of Georgians both inside and outside of prison.

Channel 2 Action News has an exclusive interview with Georgia’s corrections commissioner who says this is important for the safety of all Georgians, the safety of the people who work in prisons, and of inmates.

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He says he’s been in criminal justice for a quarter of a century and has never seen a look as deep and broad at what works and what needs improvements in our prisons as he anticipates this will be.

“This assessment is crucial,” Georgia Department of Corrections Commissioner Tyrone Oliver told Channel 2′s Mark Winne. “This is going to be the roadmap for the future.”

Oliver told Channel 2 Action News that he was speaking via Zoom from Smith State Prison in Glennville where he was on the scene to personally oversee the investigation of a crisis - an inmate who had somehow gotten ahold of a gun inside the prison with which he murdered a contract food service worker, then killed himself.

“It was a personal relationship that was established between the food service worker and the inmate,” Oliver said.

But he says for months before this, he and Gov. Brian Kemp had been working on a plan to make all Georgia prisons better in the future with an in-depth, independent, comprehensive assessment of what’s working and what needs to be improved in a prison system housing close to 50,000 inmates - roughly 75% of them violent offenders.

“This assessment’s a naturally progressive step that the governor is taking to improve the safety in Georgia. He’s cracked down on gangs on the street, cracked down on criminal activity on the street. Now we got to tackle and crack down on the issues inside Georgia prisons to also keep Georgians safe,” Oliver said.

Oliver says the state has contracted with three carefully selected firms, Guidehouse, Incorporated, The Moss Group, which has worked with corrections departments in all 50 states, and CGL Companies.

Oliver says nothing will be off-limits, “They’re going to look at the gangs, contraband, look at technology that we’re using or technology that’s out there to help us, combat all those things, whether it’s contraband and or to supplement staffing.”

Oliver says the study will also look at policies, procedures, programs for offenders, recruitment and retention of staff which has been an ongoing issue, infrastructure, which will be key, and much more. Out of this process should come a roadmap which can guide how Georgia prisons are run for years to come.

“Do you anticipate the governor’s office will take these action items to the legislature, for instance, if, budget changes are needed? Winne asked.

“Absolutely. That’s a big part of it. We’re going to need all parties, involved with that from the governor’s office to have his support and from the General Assembly,” Oliver replied.


The commissioner says the profile of Georgia prisoners has changed dramatically in the last decade or so with a steady increase in the violent population and in the gang presence in prisons.

He says the average sentence length for those serving time now is about 32 years.

So a long-term plan is needed and that was critical to the discussions he had with Kemp as they worked on this initiative for months.

An aide to the governor estimates the price tag for the assessment will be between $2-$3 million.

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