Georgia Criminal Legal Systems Budget Primer for State Fiscal Year 2023

Georgia’s 2023 Department of Corrections Budget

Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) budget for FY 2023 is $1.28 billion. GDC oversees all aspects of the state’s prison system, including contracts carried out by private prisons. Corrections officers make up most of the department’s workforce.

Several reform bills since 2012 sought to address issues related to prison length of stay, mandatory minimum sentencing and probation and parole eligibility. Bills passed in 2020 and 2021 included those seeking more cost-efficiency and better post-incarceration, reentry outcomes.

GDC FY 2023 spending is $71 million higher than FY 2020’s pre-pandemic budget cut levels and nearly $154 million higher than FY 2022 spending. When combined with $511 million in Amended FY 2022 spending increases and $167 million in bond financing given to the Georgia Building Authority to manage prison facility construction, lawmakers added $833 million in GDC spending following the 2022 Legislative Session. This impulse to expand prison construction and staffing to address challenges likely traced to persistent economic inequalities across race and ethnicity–including but not limited to access and outcome gaps in workforce, education, housing, health conditions–are likely to perpetuate the ill effects of mass incarceration.

Furthermore, spending increases fail to reverse AFY 2020 and FY 2021 commissary price increases placed on incarcerated Georgians and supportive loved ones and fail to clarify health co-pay coverage for COVID-related medical needs. And while GDC added $10 million for technology projects and $4.4 million to transition centers, questions remain on how those funds could apply to new phone restrictions placed on Georgians in transition centers, whose preparations for reentry will likely be impacted.

Mixed Impacts and Outcomes Among Correctional Control in Georgia

Georgians under correctional control, as defined by the Prison Policy Initiative, include those in state prison, federal prison, local jail, youth confinement, involuntary confinement, jails in Indian Country or under probation or parole. In 2021, the Department of Community Supervision (DCS) supervised 245,387 people. For every 100,000 Georgians, 3,943 are on probation, ranking Georgia as the leading state for people under correctional control. This represents nearly four times the national rate and at least three times the rate of any other state in the Southeast.

Impoverished Georgians who encounter the criminal legal system, are often unable to afford to pay court fines and fees, leading them into further debt due to surcharges which often include late fees, interest fees and payment plan fees. These vicious cycles too often leave countless Georgians with an impossible choice: pay spiraling fines and fees or take care of basic household needs and risk further penalties or incarceration. Those under probation for failure to pay fines and fees heavily contribute to Georgia’s worst ranking. This criminal legal system involvement presents barriers to successful reentry through employment and economic stability that impacts those with fines and fees obligations and families who support them. Lawmakers nearly restored DCS probation services to pre-pandemic spending levels, reaching $174 million in FY 2023.

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