(The Center Square) – The Georgia Senate passed a bill making it easier for Georgians on parole to seek early termination of their sentences.
Senate Act 105 would simplify the early termination procedure for those who have served at least three years probation and meet certain requirements. The Senate cleared it unanimously on Thursday.
One of the sponsors of the law, Senator Brian Strickland, R-McDonough, said if the measure became law it would help thousands of Georgians exit the criminal justice system and save taxpayers millions of dollars.
“In Georgia, we should encourage people to make mistakes, serve their time, pay their refunds, and stay out of anger,” Strickland said. “We should help Georgians who have earned a second chance in life to find a job, buy a house, raise a family, or accomplish something they dream of in the state without the stigma of parole hanging over their heads. “
Georgia has more people on parole or parole than any other state, according to the Georgia Justice Project. Around one in 18 Georgians is under the supervision of the community. The average suspended sentence in Georgia is 6.3 years, well above the national average of two years, while 40% of suspended sentences in Georgia are longer than 10 years, according to the Georgia Justice Project.
Strickland said SB 105 clarifies suspended sentence reform guidelines that do not have the legislature’s intended impact.
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Georgia Department of Community Supervision officials said many Georgians who should have qualified for an early termination did not do so because of the trial. Out of 50,000 eligible cases under the current policy, only 213 were automatically given a bid date, one day in court, to request early termination, official reports show.
Lisa McGahan, political director of the Georgia Justice Project, said Georgia has three ways to reduce suspended sentences for good behavior. Each path has its own definition of good behavior, which creates a conflict in the system. SB 105 streamlines the process.
Under SB 105, Georgians on parole could have their sentences shortened if they have paid a refund, have not been revoked in the past two years, or have not been arrested for anything other than a “minor” traffic incident.
Scott Maurer, assistant commissioner for the Georgia Department of Community Supervision, said SB 105 maintains the criteria but makes it easier for everyone.
“We support the legislation. We believe this will have a positive impact on the extremely large number of cases our officers have and the length of suspended sentences in Georgia,” said Maurer last week during a Senate committee on the trial.
The bill is now going to the house for examination.