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JRI Years: 2012, 2017



Georgia’s prison population had more than doubled between 1990 and 2011, with corrections expenditures reaching $1 billion in 2011.1 Despite increased corrections spending, recidivism rates remained stagnant, and the prison population was expected to continue to increase.2 In 2011, the General Assembly passed House Bill 265 to establish the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform. The Council was charged with examining the state’s growing prison population and identifying strategies to improve public safety and contain corrections costs.3


The Council submitted recommendations that were incorporated into House Bill (HB) 1176 and signed into law by then-Governor Nathan Deal in May 2012. HB 1176 reduced the use of incarceration, raised the felony threshold for theft offenses, and created different levels of burglary.4 The legislation authorized the use of graduated sanctions to respond to violations of supervision and increased community intervention options for people needing substance use and mental health services.5 Accompanying the legislation, the budget included more than $17 million in funding to support accountability courts and increase treatment beds.6 HB 1176 resulted in policy and practice changes across multiple state and local agencies.


The changes addressed by Georgia’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative of 2012 decreased the prison population by 6 percent, leading to savings of approximately $264 million on correction costs.7 As a result, the state was able to allocate $57 million toward initiatives focused on reducing recidivism and sustaining improvements in areas such as accountability courts, vocational and on-the-job training programs, the Georgia Prisoner Reentry Initiative, and Residential Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT) facilities and programs.8 Over the subsequent seven years, using a similar data-driven, stakeholder-led process, Georgia continued to advance and implement criminal justice policies designed to protect public safety, use taxpayer dollars efficiently and limit the unnecessary use of incarceration.

For more information, see Justice Reinvestment: Georgia.

JRI-Driven Policies and Practices

  • Reclassify/redefine drug offenses
  • Reclassify/redefine property offenses
  • Revise sentencing enhancements
  • Revise mandatory minimums
  • Establish/revise presentence assessment
  • Expand good-time/earned-time prison credits/reentry leave
  • Authorize/develop/modify graduated responses or matrices for violations
  • Cap revocation time
  • Establish/improve electronic monitoring
  • Require/improve risk-needs assessment
  • Require evidence-based practices
  • Reform/establish specialty courts or diversion programs
  • Require data collection/performance measures
  • Establish/extend oversight council



Between 2012 and 2015, Georgia saw a 6 percent decrease in its prison population, averting approximately $264 million in corrections costs.9 However, Georgia maintained the highest probation rate in the country in 2014.10 In May 2016, Georgia state leaders asked the CSG Justice Center to assist the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform (Council) to address challenges within the state’s criminal justice system with a second Justice Reinvestment effort.


Senate Bill (SB) 174 codified the Justice Reinvestment policy framework developed by the Council and included policies to reduce lengthy probation terms and large probation caseloads, improve both the effect and cost-effectiveness of responses to probation and parole violations, and modify the handling of legal financial obligations for people on felony probation. The policies allowed for some low-risk people on felony probation to be shifted to unsupervised probation status after a two-year period. Additionally, incentives for reduced probation lengths were created for individuals on probation for certain first-time offenses.11 SB 174 passed unanimously in both the Georgia House and Senate and was signed into law as Act 226 by Governor Nathan Deal on May 9, 2017, and resulted in policy and practice changes in partnership with multiple agencies.12


The changes addressed Georgia’s high probation rate by significantly reducing probation and parole officers’ average caseload size and prioritizing individuals who pose a risk to public safety and their communities. The prison population decreased from 52,951 in June 2017 to 49,959 as of June 30, 2020, and the actively supervised probation population fell from 104,763 in April 2016 to 92,918 in June 2020.

For more information, see Justice Reinvestment in Georgia.

JRI-Driven Policies and Practices

  • Revise parole hearings/decision/eligibility standards
  • Establish/expand earned discharge (probation/parole)
  • Require/improve risk-needs assessment
  • Require evidence-based practices
  • Reduce probation terms or active supervision period
  • Improve behavioral health interventions
  • Establish presumption of indigence when imposing legal financial obligations
  • Require data collection/performance measures

Other JRI-Funded Projects

In Georgia, the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office and the Georgia Department of Community Supervision, in partnership with the CSG Justice Center, were one of the first to test and contribute to the digital infrastructure of the Justice Counts initiative.

In Georgia, the CSG Justice Center and the Judicial Council of Georgia/Administrative Office of the Courts will connect and aggregate case data from 400+ local courts as part of the Justice Counts initiative.

1 Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform, 2011, Report of the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians, 2.

2 Ibid., 2.

3 Ibid., 2.

4 Ibid., 2.

5 Ibid., 14.

6 Pew Charitable Trusts, 2011, Pew Applauds Georgia Leaders for Enacting Comprehensive Public Safety Reform, Washington, DC: Pew, retrieved March 19, 2023 from

7 The Council of State Governments Justice Center, Justice Reinvestment in Georgia, New York, NY: The Council of State Governments Justice Center, retrieved May 12, 2023 from,serious%20.

8 Ibid.

9 The Council of State Governments Justice Center, 2023, Justice Reinvestment in Georgia.

10 Ibid.

11 Ibid.

12 Ibid.

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