It’s no secret that the justice system in the United States doesn’t always work for everyone.
As part of an effort to reform the criminal justice system in Georgia, the State legislature created the Georgia Accountability Court Program in 2012 to offer alternatives to sentencing and incarceration for people convicted of nonviolent crimes.
So how do these “accountability courts” work? And why do we need them?
Expert criminal defense attorney Kim Frye is a firm believer in promoting alternatives to incarceration. Read on for her breakdown of what the accountability courts are and why they’re a necessary addition to Georgia’s criminal justice system.
What are the accountability courts in Georgia?
The 2012 Georgia Accountability Court Program offered incentives for accountability courts to be set up in many of Georgia’s counties.
These courts work with people convicted of nonviolent crimes to go through counseling, rehabilitation programs, and community service work to avoid jail time.
Accountability courts are always an alternative way to handle a sentence.
It’s often considered better than prison for three reasons:
- It works better than prison at keeping people safe
- It costs the government less than prison does
- We have found through efforts of support for people who were charged, that it can have great outcomes
So, accountability courts allow a different way for cases to be handled. It takes the stress off the criminal justice system, but also usually is an excellent service for the person who is charged.
What kind of accountability courts are there?
The Georgia Accountability Court Program allows for the creation of a number of different types of accountability courts:
- Drug court
- DUI court
- Mental health court
- Family treatment court
- Veterans court
There can also be juvenile accountability courts dealing with each of these categories, as well as separate courts for misdemeanors and felonies.
Cobb County is an excellent example of the use of accountability courts. We have a misdemeanor DUI court and a misdemeanor mental health court. But the program actually started in Cobb County with three felony courts.
The first one was drug court. It works extremely well for people who are addicted to drugs and have committed felonies as a result. We also have a mental health accountability court.
Even better, it makes sure that people who may have had a brush with the law but have a serious mental illness can get structure and support, and not be incarcerated for their mental illness.
How do accountability courts help the community?
The creation of these accountability courts was incentivized in order to reform the criminal justice system and provide alternatives to life-altering prison sentences. But how well have the courts achieved these goals since their creation?
In 2018, the Council of Accountability Court Judges and the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council partnered with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government to conduct an economic impact analysis of Georgia’s Accountability Court Program.
Here are some of the statistics that they found:
- In 2017, 1,729 participants graduated from Georgia’s accountability court programs
- Each participant produced about $22,129 in economic benefits to the state
- The program saved the government thousands of dollars by preventing recidivism
- Sending a participant through the accountability system is $5,000 cheaper than incarcerating them
Not only do the accountability courts save the government money and prevent recidivism, they also protect people’s rights by helping them avoiding lengthy prison sentences.
Contact a Georgia defense attorney today
If you’ve been accused of a nonviolent crime and you think that an accountability program might be right for you, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help.
At Frye Law Group, our attorneys work night and day to make sure your rights are respected and your future is protected. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.