Georgia County Government - May/June 2012 - (Page 10)

Feature An Inside Look at Criminal Justice Reform By Noble Sprayberry M professional. 10 0 acon St ate Prison, built to hold 1,506 felons, is one of t he toughest places in Georgia, and Taylor County Commissioner Clinton Perry knows it from the inside as a corrections He understands the necessity of locking people up. “I have worked in the largest and most dangerous prisons in the state, including Macon State Prison in Oglethorpe, Georgia for 14 years.” But he also believes placing too much emphasis on incarceration fails to serve either the offender or state taxpayers. Since the spring of 2011, he has served as superintendent for the McEver Probation Detention Center, a medium-security G ORGI COU Y GOVERNMENT GEORGIA COUNTY GOVERNMENT GEORGIA COUNTY OVERNM N ORGI OUN RNMEN M prison in Perry, Georgia, designed to hold 228 offenders. Detainees in that center often have violated some court-ordered requirement of a probationary sentence, although they may be sentenced there directly. Rather than simply housing prisoners, the center emphasizes work details, job training and participation in programs such as GED and cognitive-based programming that focuses on lifestyle changes. Perry sees the value in the approach, preventing some people from becoming career criminals and a long-term drain on the Department of Corrections’ budget. “I’ve developed a profound respect for the probation detention center because it proves that rigorous work details and programs such as substance abuse counseling can have an impact on low level offenders.” Perry is far from alone in a state long known for get-tough criminal policies. This year, Governor Nathan Deal signed into law a series of sweeping changes designed to control costs in a criminal justice system that spends more than $1 billion — up from $492 million in 1990 — on a prison system housing more than 57,000 inmates. The growth in the prison population has kept pace with the state’s population growth since the 1990s. The scope of change, however, extends far beyond state prisons, shifting some financial responsibility from the state to local governments. For example, the legislation raised the caps for a felony, making these offenses and crimes misdemeanors. Now, some offenders, who earlier would have landed in state lockup on a felony conviction, will face misdemeanor punishment, a county-level responsibility. The 2011 Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians, created to redesign the state’s corrections system, emphasized the need to reinvest a portion of any money saved by the reforms in local services which will need additional resources as a result of the shifts in policy. A Link Between State Corrections and County Government As counties work through the realities of a new system, Perry will play a unique

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia County Government - May/June 2012

President’s Message
In Memoriam
Director’s Desk
An Inside Look at Criminal Justice Reform
Taylor County: Strongly Rooted in an Agricultural Economy with Expectations for Growth
ACCG Annual Meeting Highlights
How Counties Can Stay on Top with an Uncertainty in Federal Funding
A More Level Playing Field for the 2012 LOST Renegotiations
Counties & the Law: Road Acquisition and Abandonment
Preferred Partner News: Georgia United Credit Union Now Welcomes County Employees
Preferred Partner News: How M2M Technology is Poising Local Government for Growth
News & Notes
Index of Advertisers

Georgia County Government - May/June 2012