GA Report Links Lenient Sentencing to Recidivism

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A new report detailing Atlanta’s recidivist problem blames lenient sentencing by judges, echoing a popular talking point by police, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The Atlanta Repeat Offender Commission (AROC) study, which examined adjudications of Fulton County repeat offenders from 2017-18, has drawn criticism. Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard, Fulton’s judges, and even some police officials called it incomplete and misleading. Still, the numbers are noteworthy. The study found that only 23 percent of repeat offenders — defined as persons with three or more felony convictions — were sentenced to confinement. Those recidivists were responsible for 18 percent of felony cases tried in Fulton courts over that same two-year period.

“The leniency shown to these bad actors by the judicial system results in recidivistic crimes that prey on the public, often resulting in egregious injury or public fear by citizens and the neighborhoods who feel as if they’ve been terrorized,” the report concludes. The 2017-18 confinement number signals a dramatic decline from 2016, when 37 percent of repeat offenders were incarcerated. CEO Dave Wilkinson of the Atlanta Police Foundation and chair of the AROC suggests the drop came because of a lack of oversight of judges’ performance. “I’d have people tell me a judge was tough on crime, and I’ll tell them, ‘How do you know?’” Wilkinson said. Fulton Superior Court Chief Judge Robert McBurney, a commission member, said the report seems to conflate repeat offenders with violent criminals. “There is a reason for the community to be concerned,” said McBurney, the judge who boasts the highest rate of confinement sentences for repeat offenders. “But it gets complicated when one tries to put a label on repeat offenders.”

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