FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Sept. 25, 2013CONTACT:
Valerie Wickboldt
(850) 386-3131
vwickboldt@jamesmadison.orgFSU’s Project on Accountable Justice Hosts Public Forum Highlighting Georgia’s Efforts in Criminal and Juvenile Justice Reform
~ Distinguished panelists from Georgia discuss experience undertaking systemic criminal and juvenile justice reform poised to help the state save money and save lives ~TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – At a public forum last night held at The Florida State University’s (FSU) College of Law, three top reformers from Georgia’s criminal and juvenile justice arena led attendees on a journey through their experience taking on strategic and systemic reform measures on a grand scale in the Peach State. The forum was held by FSU’s Project on Accountable Justice (PAJ) and the St. Petersburg College Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions in partnership with The James Madison Institute and the John Scott Dailey Florida Institute of Government at FSU.Sandy D’alemberte, president emeritus and professor at FSU’s College of Law and Dr. Allison DeFoor, PAJ chairman welcomed the crowd of more than 100 concerned citizens, students and lawmakers to the forum titled, “A Tale of Two States: What Can Florida Learn From Georgia’s Criminal and Juvenile Justice Reforms?”“Florida is at a tipping point on criminal justice reform; lives, dollars and victims hang in the balance,” said DeFoor. “There’s much to learn from Georgia’s success and we’re honored to have this distinguished panel share with us their story.”The event was moderated by Dr. Bob McClure, president and CEO of JMI and included:
·       The Honorable Michael P. Boggs, Judge, Georgia Court of Appeals, Co-Chair, Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform
·       The Honorable Jay Neal, Member, Georgia House of Representatives
·       W. Thomas Worthy, Deputy Executive Counsel, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, Co-Chair, Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform“As the third largest item in Florida’s budget, we must ensure performance measures within the justice system are based on outcomes that hold offenders accountable while reducing costs to the state and crime, protecting victims and their families, and, when appropriate, reforming offenders and helping them become productive members of society,” said Dr. McClure. “This is truly a moral issue with economic implications. And, as we’ve seen nationally and in Georgia, people across all points of the political spectrum have set politics aside to enact meaningful justice reform that will impact the future for the better.”At the time Georgia began its efforts, 1 in 13 Georgia adults was under some form of correctional supervision and since 1990, Georgia’s prison population more than doubled to nearly 56,000 inmates. Despite this growth, the proportion of inmates who returned to state prison three years after release remained at nearly 30 percent during the past decade. If current policies had remained, the population was projected to grow 8 percent over five years at a cost of $264 million.An extensive review of data by the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians revealed that drug and property offenders accounted for almost 60 percent of prison admissions. Judges had few viable sentencing options other than prison, and probation and parole agencies lacked the authority and resources to effectively supervise offenders in the community.With technical assistance from the Pew Center on the States and its partners, the Council issued recommendations to improve public safety by focusing prison space on serious offenders, strengthening probation and alternative sentencing options, relieving local jail overcrowding, and improving performance measurement.HB 1176 was signed into law in May 2012 and is projected to avert the anticipated growth in prison population and costs over the next five years. Through accompanying budget initiatives, the state redirected more than $17 million of the savings into efforts to reduce reoffending. Governor Deal signed an Executive Order to continue the Council to monitor and expand on the reforms.“While this effort should ultimately uncover strategies that will save taxpayer dollars, we are first and foremost attacking the human costs of a society with too much crime, too many people behind bars, too many children growing up without a much-needed parent and too many wasted lives,” said Rep. Neal. “Gov. Nathan Deal understood this factor and I think of him as a hero for taking on these issues when there was skepticism about the politics of it all.”In 2013, Georgia enacted House Bill 242, which included wide-ranging reforms to its juvenile justice system based on recommendations from the Council. Over five years, an estimated $85 million would be saved through provisions of the bill. As a result, Georgia also avoided the need to open two additional juvenile residential facilities. This allowed the state to reinvest a portion of the savings to expand community-based programs and practices proven to reduce recidivism. The bill also streamlined and revised the state code relating to juvenile justice and child welfare, including creating new processes for cases involving children in need of services.  A second round of criminal justice reforms enacted in 2013 extends the work of the Special Council for the next five years to expand and monitor the reforms.“More than anything, tonight we heard a story of how a state prioritized public safety, achieved consensus, and strengthened accountability through stakeholder input, and vigilant data collection,” said Deborrah Brodsky, PAJ director.“When people come together around good data and to do the right thing, the right thing can be done,“ said Rep. Neal.  “There is no one-stop solution to solve the multiple, complicated issues that arise within the criminal and juvenile justice system. No guarantees exist that we will never face problems and challenges; however, the reality is that the problems will be reduced. There will be more success than failure.”For more information on PAJ, St. Petersburg College and JMI visit, iog.fsu.edu/paj/, www.spcollege.edu/solutions/, and www.jamesmadison.org respectively.###About St. Petersburg College Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions: The Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College serves as a resource for academic enrichment, a non-partisan venue for civil, objective debate of topical public issues, a center to promote better government, and a resource for sustainable economic development. Its mission is to support a broad array of research, training, educational and policy analysis and support activities at the local, state, regional and national levels.About FSU’s Project on Accountable Justice: The Florida State University Project on Accountable Justice (PAJ) is housed at the Institute of Government at FSU and is a unique partnership between Florida State University, Baylor University’s Program on Prosocial Behavior, the Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions at St. Petersburg College, and the Florida Public Safety Institute at Tallahassee Community College. The mission of PAJ is to advance public safety through evidence-based practices and policies in Florida and beyond.About The James Madison Institute: Founded in 1987, The James Madison Institute (JMI) is Florida’s oldest and largest nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization. JMI is dedicated to advancing such ideals as economic freedom, limited government, federalism, traditional values, the rule of law, and individual liberty coupled with individual responsibility. All JMI publications are available online at www.JamesMadison.org. Twitter: @JmsMadisonInst; Facebook: facebook.com/JamesMadisonInstitute