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Alternative Sentencing Does Work

W. Scott Cole

Posted on September 12, 2018 01:49

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I have written several articles that talk about the benefits of alternative sentencing. I thought it was past time I presented evidence of how well different programs can work if they are implemented properly.

The road to reducing crime by using alternative sentencing began in Georgia in 2010 with the election of Governor Nathan Deal. Governor Deal knew the criminal justice system intimately, having been a prosecutor, a Juvenile Court judge, and a Superior Court judge.

Eight years later, Georgia’s system is completely reformed, and the numbers show that the changes Governor Deal helped push through can be a model for other states.

In 2013, the juvenile justice system was overhauled completely, using alternative sentencing and evidence based practices. Today, juvenile recidivism is down one third.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, “evidence based practices” (I had to look it up myself to be sure I understood) in the criminal justice context refers to an evidence-based policy focused on reducing a convicted person’s risk that has been proven to influence positive behavior change.

Georgia then started working on its adult criminal justice system. The use of alternative courts was expanded, with judges set to specifically oversee those with drug, DUI, mental health, family treatment, veterans, and other issues. The benefit? As of this year, the recidivism rate of those who graduate from one of Georgia’s Accountability Court programs is at two percent. The use of alternative courts has created a $38.2 million benefit to the state every year.

None of this means Georgia has been soft on crime. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation statistics shows violent crime in the state is down 10%, but at the same time, the percentage of inmates serving time for violent crimes is up from 58% to 68%. Violent crime is still punished as such.

The use of alternative sentencing has reduced the flow of people to prison by 19%, reducing the prison population and completely eliminating the backlog of inmates being held in county jails waiting to be transferred to prison. This alone accounts for $25 million dollars in savings to the state. The lower recidivism rate means fewer people are returning to prison, and more people convicted of non-violent crimes are re-entering the work force.

Governor Deal’s approach was simple: punish the violent and separate them from society. Provide a better way for those who make a mistake and who needs a firm guiding hand, hold them accountable, but at the same time, teach them how to make better choices and to understand the thought processes that contributed to the choices they made that brought them in front of a judge.

Alternative sentencing does work. It begins after arrest with a proper assessment of a person’s risk (how likely is he or she to commit another crime), followed by an assessment of what kind of program is needed, as well as how intensive that program should be to achieve the desired results, and an assessment of how well the person should respond to the program. If done properly, the results are astounding, as Georgia can now prove to the entire country.

W. Scott Cole

Posted on September 12, 2018 01:49

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Source: WISH-TV

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Thirteen counties are set to join Indiana's participation in a national initiative to reform juvenile...

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