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The Georgia Department of Corrections budget for 2020 is $1.2 billion. The department oversees the state’s prison system, including contracts carried out by private prisons. Corrections officers make up most of the department’s workforce.
Recent criminal justice reform efforts focus on the goals of saving costs on housing inmates and improving outcomes when they return to communities. Since 2012, seven major new laws took effect designed to reduce the length of imprisonment, mandatory minimum sentencing and expand probation and parole eligibility.
When former Gov. Nathan Deal started the reforms in 2012, the state’s prison population was 54,900. By 2018, the population was only lowered to 54,500. During that time the department’s budget grew by 15 percent, with most of the new money allotted to mental health support and education initiatives.
Georgia’s 2020 budget allocates $186 million to the Department of Community Supervision. The state created this agency in 2015 to oversee major initiatives to help released citizens return to communities and oversee the state’s probationers.
The department plans to spend $167 million in 2020 to support probation, now classified as Field Services. The state’s probation budget has nearly doubled since 2012.
The agency reports that one in 13 adults are on felony probation in Georgia. This is double the rate in Texas and four times the rate in North Carolina, making Georgia number one in the nation for the number of individuals under community supervision.
Probation might seem like a better alternative to incarceration, but it can also contribute to recidivism. Probation imposes time- consuming conditions and fees that low-income people struggle to pay. Minor violations, such as missing a meeting with a probation officer, can result in re-incarceration.