Costs Remain High, but Georgia Sees Improvement In Recidivism Rates
The overarching goal of the American penal system is to rehabilitate convicted prisoners so they may be released back into society. The hope is the individual will contribute to his or her community and remain a law-abiding citizen.
Unfortunately, the recidivism rate (repeating a criminal offense) remains high across the nation. In Georgia, for example, WALB.com reports that one in three prisoners will be back behind bars within three years of his/her release.
In 2009, roughly 20,000 inmates were released from prison. Assuming this number has remained constant, this means roughly 6,500 prisoners released in 2011 will be back behind bars by 2014.
Interestingly, however, this is an improvement over Georgia's 1999 statistics when four in ten released prisoners were back behind bars within three years.
The Cost of Recidivism
AJC.com reports that Georgia's corrections budget was $1.1 billion in 2008 and Georgia's taxpayers spend approximately $17,500 per inmate each year. This accounts for nearly 6 percent of Georgia's general funds. At this rate, Georgia cannot afford to maintain its current correctional system without deferring funding from other necessary state services.
Lawmakers Response to Correctional Costs
According to Watchdog.com, Georgia lawmakers passed a bill requiring review of the state's penal system costs, as well as ideas to reform its correctional policies to reduce Georgia's prison population.
Georgia's new commission on criminal justice reform is scheduled to report its findings by November 1, 2011 and should include recommendations for reducing annual expenses. Some ideas being considered include:
Additionally, Georgia is considering expanding its educational programs offered to prisoners. According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, those who participated in prison educational programs had a 30 percent lower rate of recidivism and received higher wages post-release.
Georgia has a long road ahead to fix its current budgeting and prison population issues. Hopefully new reform policies and post-release procedures will rein in illegal behavior. If not, however, there are always experienced criminal defense attorneys ready to aggressively defend those charged with a crime.