Corrections Takes Proactive Measures in Managing the Evolving
FORSYTH, Ga. – As the offender demographics within the Georgia prison system continue to evolve following the implementation of Criminal Justice Reform efforts, corrections officials have been taking proactive measures in revising strategies to manage the increasingly violent offender population. Effective programming is an essential part of these strategies, including increased educational and vocational opportunities, access to Georgia Offender Alternative Learning devices (GOAL), and increased counseling.
The Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) has seen a 4% increase in violent and sex offense admissions, since 2012. Non-violent offenders are being diverted to community corrections, leaving the most violent and dangerous to be housed in prison facilities.
“This is good news for the citizens of the state of Georgia because non-violent offenders are receiving the assistance they need to become productive members of society,” said Commissioner Bryson. “At the same time, we are taking seriously our commitment of maintaining secure and safe facilities by taking proactive measures towards managing the increasingly violent prison population.”
Even with this evolving offender population, GDC has seen an 80% decline in homicides between calendar year 2012, and the first six months of 2016. Inmate-on-inmate assaults are down overall by 52.6% since FY2014. In July 2016, there were a total of 75 inmate-on-inmate assaults. Approximately 60% involved offenders who received mental health treatment from GDC, while 53% involved validated gang members. Of these incidents, 11% resulted in serious injury.
A significant portion of our strategies revolve around our commitment to providing offenders with opportunities for a successful reentry. These opportunities have shown great success, specifically in our educational programming. For example, GED programming is available at all of our state facilities, with 187 teachers and more than 6,000 offenders enrolled. To date, a total of 1,222 offenders have completed the GED course. One of the newest additions to our educational programming is the GOAL device, a tablet that allows offenders to have 24-hour access to educational material. All offenders housed in state facilities will be issued a device, and thus far more than 25,000 GOAL devices have been distributed. Since the distribution of these devices, offenders have downloaded more than 610,000 educational materials.
Other measures taken include installing new locking mechanisms and replacing cell fixtures so that offenders cannot make improvised weapons. Regular shakedowns are conducted to eradicate contraband from inside the walls of our prisons, which aids in the safety of our staff and inmates as well as the overall operations of our facilities. Additionally, the GDC bolstered the number and training of investigators working in its Office of Professional Standards’ Criminal Investigations Unit to include a total of 104 Special Agents and Investigators, with one investigator assigned at all close security and most medium security facilities. The GDC’s Special Agents receive the same initial training as agents from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and have been instrumental in the GDC’s efforts to interdict criminal activity within its facilities. Further, a dedicated Statewide Security Threat Group Coordinator has been tasked with identifying dangerous gang members within our prisons, coordinating efforts of facilities to monitor gang activity, and providing intelligence information to our law enforcement partners statewide.
The GDC responds promptly when conflicts arise between offenders or among gang members. Several facilities experienced heightened tensions over the past two to three months and were placed on lockdown to ensure the safety of staff and inmates. Facility conditions were assessed on a case-by-case basis to limit the interruptions to offender programming, work details, and visitation to the extent possible.
The GDC has one of the largest prison systems in the U.S. and is responsible for supervising nearly 52,000 state prisoners. It is the largest law enforcement agency in the state with approximately 10,500 employees.
For more information on the GDC call 478-992-5247 or visit http://www.gdc.ga.gov