The first African-American to run Georgia’s prison system is hinting at major changes for a crowded, underfunded system with the nation’s sixth-largest inmate population, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We’ve got to look seriously at some sort of transformation in the way we do business,” retired two-star Gen. James E. Donald, 54, said after he took office yesterday. “Change and indeed transformation are inevitable.” Donald replaces Jim Wetherington, who resigned in January at Gov. Sonny Perdue’s request.
The Jackson, Miss., native said he will devise a “transformation campaign plan,” including more “transitional” facilities for non-violent inmates and more involvement in the prison system by the faith-based and corporate communities. The plan could be ready within 90 days. “We cannot afford as Georgia taxpayers the amount of money needed to keep pace with the increase in inmates,” Donald said. He believes the inmate population can be reduced while still ensuring public safety.
“Frankly, I charged him with how we can make Georgia safe by having a [smaller] population of incarcerated citizens,” Perdue said. “We want to make a system that graduates these people back into society, . . . where they can become contributors to our society.”
Donald, who has no experience in corrections, assumes command of a prison system that incarcerates more than 47,000 convicted felons, employs 14,000 people and has an annual budget of $900 million. His salary is $120,000 a year. The number of inmates has doubled since 1992.