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Georgia enacts new probation reform law

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One in four Georgians under supervised felony probation now qualify for early release from probation under a new reform measure signed into law on Monday.

The measure is expected to save Georgia $34 million a year — money that normally would have been spent supervising people who qualify for early termination. Going forward, more people have a chance to be released from the program after three years. The new law is effective immediately.

Georgia has one of the most harsh probation programs in the country. Some 191,000 people are serving felony probation sentences in Georgia, more than any other state in the nation.

“Despite all the work we have done as legislators to reform and rethink the criminal justice system, Georgia still has the largest number of individuals serving probation in the country,” Sen. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) said in a prepared statement. “SB 105 addresses this problem by allowing individuals who have proven their rehabilitation through good behavior the ability to access early termination.”

Strickland introduced the bill and State Rep. Tyler Paul Smith (R-Breman) carried it in the House during the legislative session that ended in late March.

The new probation reform law — formerly Senate Bill 105 — reduces the number of people serving lengthy probation sentences by creating pathways to early release after they’ve served three years of probation. They qualify if they’ve paid all of their restitution, had no revocations in the last two years, and no new offenses. A judge still has the final say on whether to end a person’s probation.

The Georgia Justice Project has worked with Georgians impacted by the criminal justice system for more than 35 years and was key in the passage of SB 105. GJP’s Executive Director Doug Ammar called the new law a “huge win” for Georgians trying to re-enter society. It enables people to reconnect to rights they once had such as voting.

“We are thrilled that many Georgians who have proven their rehabilitation will now have access to early termination of their probation,” Ammar said in a prepared statement.

In addition to the Georgia Justice Project’s work, getting the new reform law enacted was a bipartisan effort. It includes the work of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, and The Reform Community Supervision Coalition, which includes the Faith and Freedom Coalition, REFORM Alliance, RestoreHer, and the American Conservative Union Foundation.

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