New Georgia program stresses alternatives to jail, prison

Any experienced Georgia criminal defense attorney knows the propensity of the state to often push for the incarceration of persons who, along with the general public, are better served by an alternative outcome for a federal or state crime charge.

As this blog has duly noted in prior posts, polls from many sources widely reflect the public’s view that people who have been charged with a relatively minor crime, such as the purchase and sale of narcotics in a small quantity, are inappropriately housed in jail or prison for illogically lengthy terms and at high cost to society at large.

One Georgia program seeks to do something about that and, following an initial grant of $800,000 from the state legislature last year, is actively working to save money and better rehabilitate persons who are flatly not well served by going to prison.

The program is called Opening Doors to Recovery. It is based in Savannah and currently enrolls about 100 participants, most with a history of minor drug charges, property crimes and other illegal behavior owing predominantly to conditions such as depression, drug addiction, bipolar disorder and other illnesses that make prison life difficult and inappropriate for them.

Nora Haynes, who oversees Opening Doors, goes straight to statistics to demonstrate the program’s effectiveness. Haynes has pointed out for legislators that a psychiatric inmate costs the state about $60 a day in prison. With a one-on-one connection to a “peer navigator” who can help with daily stresses and other problems, that figure plummets to $25.

Haynes says that incarcerating a person for every little problem is unnecessary and egregiously expensive.

“We’ve saved the state probably about $10,000 per participant,” she says. “We’re keeping them out of jails and prison and state hospitals and we’re moving them to recovery, which means they’ll be going into the system less.”

Source: CNN Health, “Navigating the mentally ill away from jail,” Rich Phillips, Aug. 21, 2012

  • Our firm proactively focuses on helping clients secure optimal outcomes that secure their best interests in criminal defense matters, many which allow for dispositions other than jail or prison terms. For more information, we invite you to contact our Atlanta, Georgia, Criminal Defense page.