Georgia to Waive Probation Sentences for Low-Risk Offenders
Georgia has more people on probation per capita than any other state in the nation: 203,000 people in 2020 alone. Legislators plan to change that.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Brian Strickland plans to ease the strain put on those currently serving probation by adding new legislation. While Ex-Governor Nathan Deal started a campaign for criminal justice reform in 2017, there is still much more work to be done.
Senate Bill 105 would allow any convicted felon that has paid restitution, has not been arrested for anything more severe than a minor traffic violation, and has been on probation for three years to terminate their probation. This action would be retroactive as well, applying to those who are currently serving their probation.
As stated previously, this is not the first time Georgia legislators have taken a swing at reforming the state’s judicial system. Then-Governor Nathan Deal worked with state legislators in 2017 to change the law so that those who avoid legal trouble after a conviction could get off of probation easier. This change was proposed through three main bills.
The first bill was Senate Bill 174. This bill focuses on the allocation of probation resources to those who are most likely to reoffend. By making sure those that need the most help get the aid they need, the number of people returning to the system should decrease.
Senate Bill 175 focused on juvenile offenders and their familial networks. Parents that are not involved in their children’s juvenile court proceedings may be subjected to a penalty. Enforcing a punishment for this behavior would push parents to help their children live a better life in the future.
The third bill – Senate Bill 176 – would ensure that those who fail to appear for non-serious traffic violations are informed. This bill requires that a letter be sent by mail to the offender informing them of their failure to appear before a bench warrant can be issued.
Adding Senate Bill 105
While Senate Bills 174, 175, and 176 made incredible progress on reforming Georgia’s criminal justice system, there is always more progress to be made. The new proposed bill – Senate Bill 105 – would focus on waiving the probationary sentences of those who comply with the laws of society.
This waiver would be recommended through the Georgia Department of Community Supervision, which manages the state’s probation and parole programs. Scott Mauer, the current assistant commissioner of the Department, has told the Senate Panel that implementing Senate Bill 105 will not majorly impact their caseloads.
The Department would simply recommend that a judge waive a given individual’s remaining probation. The offender does need to check some boxes before they can be considered:
- Sentence: The offender must be sentenced to, at most, one year in prison followed by their probation. Any sentencing below that – including people sentenced to purely probation – could be recommended for a Georgia Department of Computer Supervision waiver.
- Restitution: The offender must pay all required restitution to qualify.
- Arrests: If they are arrested on anything more severe than a traffic violation, then the offender no longer qualifies to have their probation waived.
Once these boxes have been checked, the Department of Community Supervision can recommend the individual to have their remaining probation waived. The judge must set the hearing within 90 days of the recommendation.
This bill has been majorly supported by the Georgia Department of Community Supervision and several nonprofit support groups such as the Faith and Freedom Coalition and the Georgia Justice Project. The latter focuses on hiring a criminal lawyer for low-income people who cannot afford proper counsel.
The ultimate goal is to allow those who have served their time to move on with their lives. Senate Bill 105 appears to be yet another step in that direction.