12/11: Is arrest expensive, ineffective practice?

By the AJC Editorial Board

Locking ’em up and ditching the key never was a cheap approach to punishing criminals. Nor was it particularly effective, or efficient, it seems.That must change, as a new report makes clear that our criminal corrections model is broken, unaffordable and unsustainable.

That’s proved by the cost of maintaining this dysfunctional system. It has more than doubled since 1990, standing now at more than a $1 billion annual burden to this cash-tight state.

The good news is that remaking our corrections system should save money in the long run. As a bonus, it might help the crime rate fall even further.

Doing a better job of handling criminals is a necessity for reasons other than monetary ones. In the past two decades, Georgia’s prison head count more than doubled, driving us into the unwanted distinction of having one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation. Meanwhile, our criminal recidivism — backsliding, if you will — has remained unchanged for a decade as prison stints did little to prevent inmates from showing up at the gates time and again.

Read what our editorial board has to say and comment below.

30 comments Add your comment

Janet Goree

December 12th, 2011
11:12 pm

I feel a glimmer a hope reading this. My granddaughters murderer recieved probation yet my son was sentenced to a thirty year mandatory minimum sentence for a drug crime! How does this make sense? My son struglled with addiction since the age of fifteen. Instead of diversion programs he was locked up which left more unmarketable than ever. Of course they re-offend! WHat else can they do?


December 12th, 2011
10:56 pm

Up front, I’m a big time conservative. I’ve also been involved with GDC since Jimmy Carter was governor. I’ve work in a prison and in a community center. Here’s my truth, the system is broke. We aren’t fixing anything except building very expensive prisons. My daughter has been a involved in the drug court which actually work, at least better than prisons do. When I got my undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice, I had a professor who said we put two kinds of people in jail, those we are mad at and those we’re afraid of. Let’s find a better way to deal with those we are mad at. It’s not politics, it’s the best way to spend the limited resources that we have.


December 12th, 2011
7:53 am

Personal attacks are neither helpful nor persuasive. Most of us gave those up after high school. The notion that the left has some monopoly on “thought” is particuarly laughable.

If the current system is broken, I have not heard a solution other than decriminalizing crime? Are alternatives to incarceration effective or is the prision system just a reflection of the more pervasive collapse of segments of our society?

Free Market

December 11th, 2011
9:12 pm

Forgive me, I meant to say the reasons why hemp/marijuana became ILLEGAL.

For an outstanding history of this unbelievable conspiracy (yes, there is absolutely no other word for it), read Jack Herrer’s “The Emperor Wears No Clothes”. You will be shocked by the behavior of the scum that infested our government in the early years of the 20th century (or maybe not).

Free Market

December 11th, 2011
9:10 pm

Why should no one be able to say make something illegal – legal??? Where do you get off??

Prior to the early part of the 20th century, every drug possible was LEGAL – yes, do some history research. The reasons why hemp/marijuana became legal have more to do with politics, big money, oil/paper/cotton/puritanism reasons than anything having to do with safety or similar. The same with opium, cocaine, heroin, etc.

Nobody said anything about making stealing for drug money legal, nor killing anyone while under the influence, or any other actual crime with a victim. Your logic seems to imply that so long as another crime that actually does involve a victim or property CAN occur as a result of a non-violent act than that act must remain illegal. Where do we draw the line? So everything that is illegal right now MUST remain illegal just because YOU say so?? What about gambling? Can the state never legalize gambling because people have been killed over gambling disputes in the past? And what about Sunday alcohol sales? Must they remain illegal too as some people have harmed others while under the influence (on a sunday no less)?

In the history of the US, drugs have been legal MORE than they have been illegal. Again, personal responsibility must be demanded, and penalties should be harsh for harming another or their property (WHETHER YOU ARE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OR NOT)!

How hard is that to understand? What is your problem with Freedom???



December 11th, 2011
8:51 pm

I actually got assigned to a jury on a cocaine possession case. Happily, the parties settled the day of trial, but it made me aware of the mandatory sentencing laws, which begin at something like FIVE YEARS. So, I never found out whether this was about a really bad guy for whom they couldn’t catch him on something more serious, or about some poor schnook who got caught at a local roadblock. And I probably wasn’t going to find out which was which as a juror. And the judge, who WOULD know which was which, would be unable to adjust sentencing accordingly. So a bad guy would get his just reward, if convicted. A schnook might get confronted with his mistaken ways and swear off drugs altogether (kind of a fantasy, huh?), but would have to wait quite a while to exercise his insight. I think we should admit that we don’t know yet how to handle addiction. Or, for that matter, casual use. I think our confusion about this leads to massive injustice, of which we all are a part, and massive corruption, of which we all are a part as well.

Ken P

December 11th, 2011
4:50 pm

I’ve read most of the posts, and no one should be able to say just make something illegal, legal! Drug use and abuse would certainly continue and contribute to highway deaths, crime to make money to “legally” buy the addictive substance, and many other responsibilities that DO HAVE VICTIMS!

Those truly non-violent offenders should be kept together and out of the population with violent offenders. And the corruption should be flushed out of the government involved here, in the administration and control of the prisons! Gangs should be destroyed in prison, by things like moving prisoners regularly, and using them in productive endeavors like farming, manufacturing, etc. They should be worked hard and made productive, so that at least they won’t be a drag on our economy if the DO return.

Pay the guards enough that they aren’t so readily enticed into corruption, and make the sentences legitimate. And use common sense so that if a gang has committed murder, for instance, any tattooed member of that gang should be incarcerated for an offense associated with their gang’s illegal action!

And WE MUST stop accepting criminals from the ghetto of Mexico, which are already desperate and hardened when they come here, repeatedly if necessary. This is yet another example of the foolish failure of that politically correct notion of DIVERSITY has created a population with irreconcilable differences.


December 11th, 2011
12:52 pm

I do not believe that anyone is saying that we should remove sanctions from negative behaviors that are initiated or accelerated under the influence of drugs or alcohol…ie drunk driving, domestic violence, unsafe or violent behavior in the workplace. In fact under a decriminalization/legalization regime those sanctions should be harder…almost vicious.

However, the notion that we are going to criminalize our way out of drug abuse and drug abuse related crimes is a pipe dream, and we should just say no.

mountain man

December 11th, 2011
12:28 pm

Maybe I am missing something, Aquagirl, but I don’t see anything about how to do things differently. A lot of other people on this post earlier posts just say “decriminalize all drugs and get the druggies out of the system”. I would support that except for the fact that we haven’t dealt with our legal drug – alcohol- very well. I deal in health and safety and companies would have to deal with marijuana as well as alcohol if it were legalized


December 11th, 2011
12:16 pm

So let’s just keep doing what we are doing now

No, let’s not. This may come as a shock, but there’s an opinion right there above your comments that (gasp!) suggests doing things differently. Most of us read those words. But then most of us aren’t simply drive-by trolls, looking for someone, anyone to listen to our diatribe on libs or leftists or whatever you call the imaginary bug up your bum.

Let me know if you need help with the big words.