Home Workers Compensation Law Overview: Georgia Department of Corrections 2025 Budget

Overview: Georgia Department of Corrections 2025 Budget

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Overview: Georgia Department of Corrections 2025 Budget

For fiscal year 2025, Governor Brian Kemp has proposed a $1.48 billion budget for the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC), an agency that oversees the state's prison system. The proposed fiscal year 2025 budget is nearly $153 million higher than the amount originally approved for fiscal year 2024. This increase is primarily due to cost-of-living adjustments for eligible full-time GDC employees, maintenance, repairs and additional operating costs, and contracts for physical health and pharmacy services. These latest proposals mark a three-year trend of increasing state spending on prisons, serving as a fiscal response to acute security and staffing issues while promoting long-term growth in prison populations.

Legislative, programmatic and regulatory changes under Kemp's administration have paralleled the rising prison population across the state. One of the most recent legislative proposals Kemp supported is Senate Bill 63, which, if passed, would lengthen pretrial detention and restrict access to legal counsel. Combined with current or other potential law-and-order policies, this could be another step toward effectively undoing criminal justice policy reforms passed under the Deal administration.

The state of Georgia's prison population fell below 43,000 due to the pandemic crisis, which caused statewide delays in court proceedings and reduced the number of incarcerated people. However, as processes in the criminal justice system returned to pre-pandemic levels, Georgia's prison population increased. As of January 2024, nearly 51,000 Georgians were incarcerated, including those under the jurisdiction of the GDC and released on parole or probation.[1] Black Georgians continue to make up a disproportionate 58% of the state's prison population (making up only 33% of the state's total population), testament to the legacy of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow laws, racial criminalization through excessive police presence in communities of color, racially motivated punishments in schools, and historic disinvestment in communities of color in this state.[2]

For fiscal year 2025, Governor Kemp has proposed spending increases that include a 4% cost-of-living allowance (COLA) increase for full-time employees, not to exceed $3,000 per employee. He is also proposing increased funding for physical health and pharmacy services contracts for the second year in a row, as well as $3,000 salary increases for POST-certified police officers,[3] additional funds for weekend meals and an increase in vocational training contracts with the state's technical universities.

In numbers

Amended budget for the 2024 financial year

  • $7 million to provide a $1,000 bonus to eligible full-time employees
  • $6.1 million to fund a recruitment campaign and a review of the agency's work culture
  • $65.3 million to increase funding for physical health and pharmaceutical services contracts
  • $5.6 million in additional funding for security and technology initiatives
  • $4.7 million to finance operating costs for the construction of 400 beds in the transition center

Budget for the 2025 financial year

  • $71.9 million to increase funding for physical health and pharmaceutical services contracts
  • $21.2 million for a 4 percent cost-of-living adjustment for eligible full-time state employees
  • $6 million for $3,000 pay raises for POST-certified police officers
  • $17.5 million for maintenance and repairs
  • $10 million to cover ongoing operating costs for the establishment of 400 beds in the transition center for one year
  • $6.9 million to provide 200 temporary beds at Coffee and Wheeler state prisons to allow for maintenance and repairs
  • $6.1 million to fund a recruitment campaign and a review of the agency's work culture
  • $1.2 million for additional meals on weekends
  • $172,000 to increase funding for vocational training contracts in the state technical college system

Although nearly $220 million in additional spending has been proposed for fiscal years 2024 and 2025, these priorities continue to ignore the multimillion-dollar financial burdens imposed on incarcerated Georgians and their dependents. These individuals are additionally burdened with phone and mailing fees that generate millions of dollars in commission revenue for the state each year. In addition, incarcerated Georgians must bear the increased prices of basic necessities, such as hygiene products, created by over $5 million in spending cuts in fiscal year 2021. At the same time, many of them are forced to perform unpaid labor that subsidizes public and private profits by producing goods that could end up in the stores of countless retailers through complex supply chains.[4] This additional spending also fails to address the diverse, increasing and specific needs of incarcerated women and mothers for humane accommodations – such as the provision of postpartum pumping rooms, breastfeeding programs and child-friendly spaces for children visiting their incarcerated parents.

State and local revenue streams that depend on incarcerating people are highly regressive[5] and will increase the state's prison population, worsen conditions for many Georgians of color, and reinforce racist stereotypes that harm all communities. Without a change of course, our criminal justice system will continue to undermine the state's collective efforts to achieve holistic community health, economic security, and workforce prosperity.

Endnotes

[1] Georgia Department of Corrections. (2023, January). Profiles of all inmates will be reported. Retrieved February 16, 2023, from https://gdc.georgia.gov/profile-all-inmates-during-2024

[2] For a time, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal's reforms to the criminal justice system helped reduce the number and percentage of black Georgians incarcerated from 62% in 2009 to 53% in 2017, see Rankin, B. (January 25, 2018). “Number of African Americans sent to Georgia prisons hits historic low.” Atlanta Journal-Constitution. https://www.ajc.com/news/local/proportion-black-people-sent-state-prison-hits-historic-lows/kSVudQ2MbdLJHu4WUWmtxJ/; see also Gottlieb, A, & Flynn, K. (March 2021) The legacy of slavery and mass incarceration: evidence from criminal trial outcomes. Social Service Review. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdf/10.1086/713922

[3] The Georgia Peace Officer and Training Council (POST) sets the standards and curricula for training and certification, manages the regulatory process, and provides critical technical assistance to the state's law enforcement agencies, including GA Department of Corrections employees.

[4] McDowell, R., Mason, M. (January 29, 2024). Prisoners across the U.S. are part of a hidden workforce linked to hundreds of popular food brands. AP News. https://apnews.com/article/prison-to-plate-inmate-labor-investigation-c6f0eb4747963283316e494eadf08c4e

[5] Khalfani, R. (December 6, 2022). Regressive revenue perpetuates poverty: Why Georgia's fines and fees need immediate reform. Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. https://gbpi.org/regressive-revenue-perpetuates-poverty-why-georgias-fines-and-fees-need-immediate-reform/