New law bringing changes to probation in Peach State
COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - There are potential changes for punishment in the Peach State. A probation reform bill signed into law at the beginning of this month aims to reduce the number of Georgians serving lengthy probation sentences.
While speaking with people involved in criminal law, they say this bill could give people eligible for early termination of their probation a second chance.
Life behind bars can be hard, but so can serving a lengthy probation.
“You have to pay your probation fees, you have to pay your counselor, you have to pay for drug testing” said Dr. Xavier McCaskey Probation Counselor.
A new Georgia law will now give people serving long probation sentences a pathway to early termination, but only those who have already served three years of their probation could be eligible if they have no new arrests, no probation revocations in the last 24 months and have all their court fees paid.
“As a former prosecutor I always felt like if a person is going to mess up you’ll get another shot at them,” said Alonza Whitaker, former Columbus recorder’s court judge and defense attorney.
Whitaker says he’s sentenced many people to probation.
The Georgia Justice Project published a study on its website that shows the state has three times the national average of people serving probation.
Whitaker says this is one of the reasons he sees no harm with the new bill.
“It can give a person hope, motivation and a lot of times that is just what a person needs.” Alonza Whitaker, former Columbus Recorder’s Court judge
Dr. Xavier McCaskey says someone who is on probation can be denied housing and employment opportunities.
“How is it really helping them? Are you teaching them to be better people or is it an extended punishment for a crime they did years before?,” McCaskey added.
The Georgia Justice Project says this law could allow for up to one out of every four people currently on probation to be eligible to get out of the system sooner. A judge must still consider and grant an end to a person’s probation sentence.
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