As Georgia lawmakers desperately search for ways to slash spending, they are not debating an option taken by other states: cutting the prison population, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Georgia operates the fifth-largest prison system in the U.S., at a cost of $1 billion a year. Overseeing 60,000 inmates and 150,000 felons on probation consumes 1 of every 17 state dollars.
The state's prison population has jumped by more than a quarter in the past decade and officials expect the number of state inmates to continue to creep upward. Georgia has resorted to measures other than reducing the prison population to keep corrections spending under control. “The adage says, 'If you do the crime, you do the time,' and we still have a Legislature that tends to believe in that,” said Rep. Terry Barnard, who chairs a committee that oversees prisons. Georgia prisoners are serving longer sentences due to tough-on-crime laws adopted in the 1990s. Those laws ban early release through parole for many offenders. A wave of convictions related to methamphetamine also pushed up prison admissionss.