Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has signed legislation that will overhaul the state's criminal justice system to provide alternative sentences for nonviolent offenders and reduce soaring prison costs.
Faced with budget pressures, Deal and other law-and-order Republican governors have been pushing to overhaul years of policies that were designed to lock up more criminals and put them away for longer periods of time. In many cases, Republicans had pushed for the policies decades ago.
The governor said Wednesday the new law will save taxpayer dollars while making prison space available for the state's most violent criminals. Nationwide, the total cost of incarcerating state inmates swelled from $12 billion in 1988 to more than $50 billion in 2008.
Deal added a human side to the discussion, becoming emotional as he recounted witnessing first-hand the impact of alternative sentencing.