Some local judges offering sentence reductions to offenders who get vaccinated

HALL COUNTY, Ga. — Some local judges have put a unique program in place: offenders who get vaccinated may have their sentences reduced.

Channel 2′s Tony Thomas spoke to courthouse employees in Hall and Dawson counties about the new initiative to help improve the community.

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“In our judge’s view, every shot in the arm is a service to the community,” Hall County Court Administrator Jason Stephenson said.

The sentence reductions have been offered in several dozen cases so far.

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“You won’t find a uniform application for it,” Stephenson said. “(The judge offers) up to 20 and as many as 40 hours in some cases that they can receive credit for it.”

Hall and Dawson county residents have shown a reluctance to getting vaccinated. Overall in the state of Georgia, 38% of residents have received at least one vaccination shot, but that drops to 28% in Hall and 25% in Dawson.

Sr. Assistant Public Defender Andy Maddox said he expects some of his clients to take advantage of the offer. He said almost all of his recent clients have been offered the deal.

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“I think the whole idea is that any encouragement we can do to convince as many people to get the vaccine as possible (is a good thing),” Maddox said. “I think initially it’s some curiosity. Some have already gotten it. Many are pondering it.”

Court leaders said there’s no pressure for offenders to take the deal, but they hope that as the number grows, so will the impact on the community.

“The most important precaution right now that we are told to consider is the vaccine,” Stephenson said.

The judges have not set a time on how long the vaccination offers might be made. They are currently doing it on a case-by-case basis.