Rapper Meek Mill and billionaire philanthropist Michael Rubin celebrated a major win for prison reform in Georgia. The cofounders of the nonprofit REFORM Alliance, established with Jay-Z, praised Governor Brian Kemp for signing Probation Reform Bill SB 105 into law. Now, the state has a new codified process by which probationers who complete a minimum of three years of their sentence and also accomplish a certain set of benchmarks in that time can realistically see their sentences ended early.
“We applaud the legislature’s commitment to addressing this matter, and we’re thrilled that it will enable thousands of Georgians to leave probation and re-enter society in a safe and productive manner,” Meek and Rubin said in a press release. The bill was passed unanimously in the state Senate earlier that week, and it was also successfully ratified in the state House of Representatives by a vote of 169-2. “We are proud of the role that the REFORM Alliance played in championing these important changes.”
According to the Georgia Justice Project, there are more people on community supervision (probation or parole) in Georgia than any other state (1 in 18 residents), the average probation sentence in Georgia is 6.3 years (more than three times the national average length), and 40% of all probation sentences in Georgia are longer than 10 years. These are sobering facts when considering 95,000 people nationwide are locked up each day because of a technical infraction of parole/probation, per REFORM Alliance. Furthermore, Black Americans make up 30% of those under community supervision nationwide but comprise 13% of the U.S. adult population. (For comparison, approximately one-third of Georgians identify as Black, per the latest census.)
REFORM was instrumental in helping achieve similar prison reform measures in California last October as well as in Michigan this past January. “SB 105 is a bipartisan, evidence-based reform that will safely reduce the prison population, save taxpayer dollars and allow resources to be redirected towards true public safety priorities,” said REFORM Alliance CEO Robert Rooks. “It is a sensible and essential step toward ensuring a probation system that gives Georgians a meaningful second chance and an opportunity for real redemption.”
Rachel Holmes, the managing attorney for the Georgia Justice Project, told Atlanta’s 11Alive, “As somebody that’s been doing this work for well over a decade, it’s great to start to see these individuals being able to have a continued second chance. SB 105 really takes a look at the long terms of probation that we have here in Georgia and streamlines a way for individuals that have been rehabilitated to have access to early termination.”