Brian Strickland.jpg

Sen. Brian Strickland

ATLANTA — A probation reform bill signed into law Monday by Gov. Kemp aims to reduce the number of Georgians serving lengthy probation sentences. SB 105, introduced by Sen. Brian Strickland, R-McDonough, carried in the House by Rep. Tyler Paul Smith, R-Bremen, and championed by Georgia Justice Project (GJP), will go into effect immediately and will allow individuals access to early termination of felony probation after three years if they reach their milestones.

“Because of SB 105, Georgians that have done everything they have been asked to do and proven themselves ready to move past a mistake will be given a second chance, and we can use our resources to focus on those that are truly a threat to society,” said Strickland in a Facebook post following the bill signing. Strickland represents parts of Rockdale, Newton and Henry counties.

More than 190,000 individuals are serving felony probation sentences in Georgia, more than any other state in the nation. Georgia’s probation system also has racial inequities — in every county, Black Georgians are at least twice as likely as white Georgians to be serving a probation sentence, and in some counties eight times more likely, according to GJP.

SB 105 reduces the number of individuals serving lengthy probation sentences by creating a pathway for early termination that individuals can access after serving three years of probation if:

♦ All restitution is paid

♦ They have had no revocations in the last 24 months

♦ They have committed no new offenses

♦ A judge will consider and grant the termination

As of the signing of SB 105, up to 25% of all felony probationers qualify for early termination immediately, and more individuals will qualify faster going forward. The new law also provides a clear set of criteria for early termination for prosecutors, judges and probation officers. It is also estimated that the legislation will save Georgia $34 million a year spent supervising individuals who qualify for early termination.

Strickland said he understood the need for change.

“Despite all the work we have done as legislators to reform and rethink the criminal justice system, Georgia still has the largest number of individuals serving probation in the country,” said Strickland. “SB 105 addresses this problem by allowing individuals who have proven their rehabilitation through good behavior the ability to access early termination.”

Georgia Justice Project has served Georgians impacted by the criminal justice system for over 35 years and was key in the passing of this legislation. GJP aims to reduce the number of Georgians under correctional control and reduce reentry barriers for justice-involved Georgians. GJP’s three-pronged approach includes direct service, policy work, and community engagement. The organization has helped pass 21 Georgia laws creating pathways for second chances for Georgians, including last year’s record restriction law making certain misdemeanor and pardoned felony convictions eligible for restriction, commonly known as “expungement,” for the first time in Georgia. Georgia Justice Project represents individuals that are seeking early termination of their probation sentence and began focusing on probation reform in 2019 after seeing firsthand the negative effect of Georgia’s lengthy probation sentences on individuals, communities, and Georgia’s economy.

GJP Executive Director Doug Ammar praised this bill as huge win for reentry in Georgia.

“Georgia Justice Project has been committed to helping Georgians impacted by the criminal legal system successfully reenter our communities,” he said. “We are thrilled that many Georgians who have proven their rehabilitation will now have access to early termination of their probation.”

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I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.

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