In his inaugural speech, Governor Nathan Deal addressed an issue that the Libertarian Party of Georgia has long been aware of, the unusually high number of residents currently tracked by the Department of Corrections. “One out of every 13 Georgia residents is under some form of correctional control,” said Deal, adding that the total operational cost of the Georgia Department of Corrections is approximately $3 million a day. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the state of Georgia has about 53,000 residents currently in jail, and 1,500 of those have a prevailing offense of possession of methamphetamine, crack, or cocaine. Reducing the number of nonviolent drug offenders currently in the state’s custody would dramatically reduce the operating costs of the corrections department.
The program the Governor has in mind to reduce these numbers is an expansion of the state’s 28 drug courts, one of which his son, Hall County Superior Court Judge Jason Deal, is in charge of. While it is true that the operating costs of the drug courts are drastically lower than the operating costs of processing the same offenders in the state’s prisons (a report from the Department of Audits in 2005 lists that savings as $10,293 per individual), the expansion of the courts themselves is an expansion of the state’s government, an expansion that would cost money to establish, and one that the Libertarian Party of Georgia opposes.
“Decriminalization of simple possession of marijuana does not equate to legalizing the substance,” explained the Libertarian Party of Georgia’s Executive Director, Brett Bittner. “Decriminalization would be treated by our legal system in a manner similar to a speeding ticket, where the offender, possessing less than a predetermined limit, would be required to pay a fine before his or her court date. The removal of six words from Georgia's Official Code would keep officers from arresting those in possession, judges from adjudicating bail hearings, county jails from being overrun with those who await trial, and allow the police, courts, and prisons to do what they were designed to do, which is find and keep the violent criminals behind bars.”
Reducing the number of Georgia residents behind bars for nonviolent offenses is a move the Libertarian Party supports, but not in a way that expands the current reach of the state’s government. Their position is that decriminalization would be more effective in that reduction, while also reducing costs as well as the size and scope of government in the state.
The Libertarian Party is Georgia’s third largest political party and the only party in Georgia promoting fewer taxes, less government and personal liberty for all Georgians. To learn more, please visit www.LPGeorgia.com
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