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The GOP Eases Up on Prisons

Some states are opening prison doors to save money
Georgia's Governor Deal
Georgia's Governor DealPhotograph by David Tulis/AP Photo

In September 2009, Georgia police stopped Charles Canion for driving erratically and found a bag in his car containing traces of methamphetamine. Arrested and convicted a third time for drug possession, Canion was locked up for two years at an average cost to the state of $51 per day. Canion, 50, is out now, but will be on probation until he’s 77, costing the state more money.

Canion may never have gone to prison under proposed reforms backed by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, one of many Republicans across the country looking to reduce state corrections spending by softening sentencing laws. On Feb. 27, the state’s GOP-led House of Representatives introduced legislation that calls for special courts to steer drug users into rehab, which Deal says is cheaper than a jail sentence. “We must focus on transforming our corrections system into … a place where low-level offenders are reclaimed and restored to society as functioning members of the community, working to support their own families, and paying taxes,” Deal said last month in a speech to state lawmakers.