New bill could shorten probation sentences

Sen. Brian Strickland
Sen. Brian Strickland(Gabrielle Ware WALB)
Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 11:40 AM CST
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Georgia has the highest number of people on probation in the country, according to the Pew Research Center.

A new bill aims to change that.

Sen. Brian Strickland introduced the measure and said there is a lot of confusion on how to get off probation if you qualify.

“There’s confusion on how the process works. There’s also not a good, streamlined process that’s uniform,” he said.

The number of people on probation in Georgia is almost four times the national average, according to Pew. They also say our state has some of the longest lengths of probation periods. Attorney, Mark Brimberry said this can impact your livelihood.

“Applying for a job, explaining to your employer that you’ll be taking off periodically to report to your probation officer, your probation officer shows up at the job site from time to time,” Brimberry said. “A lot of employers just don’t want to deal with that when you have someone equally qualified who is not on probation.”

The bill would create a unified process to review cases. Long sentences could mean higher chances you could make a mistake and end up back in jail.

“Someone on probation that ends up getting in trouble again has a whole different story than some that are not,” said Strickland. “They have the risk of having that probation revoked. And then by law, you’re suppose to have a behavioral incentive date in your sentence. We’ve found tens of thousands of these people that should, the judge never did that.”

Senate Bill 105 would apply to people who’ve been in good standing for at least three years, among other requirements.

Former Governor Nathan Deal also signed a reform bill in 2017.

Senator Strickland said it’s only helped a little over 200 people, due to confusion.

Brimberry said probation can be helpful.

“Probation is an alternative to prison,” he said. “And if given the choice of prison or probation, obviously a person is going to say probation.”

Sen. Strickland said the legislation targets non-violent, first-time offenders.

The state Senate will vote on it in the next couple of weeks.

Copyright 2021 WALB. All rights reserved.

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