If Georgia officials want to reverse soaring crime rates then they must keep more experienced prosecutors on the job, and they must also contain the spread of COVID-19 so jails can hold more prisoners.
This, according to Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia (PACGA) Executive Director Pete Skandalakis. He spoke Tuesday at a hearing about crime in Atlanta before Georgia State House Public Safety and Homeland Security committee members.
“The courts shut down [because of the pandemic]. The jails could not possibly keep bringing people in. Sheriffs determined they had to keep their jails confined or open to the most violent of criminals. There were a number of people who typically might be held in custody, maybe some repeat offenders, who are being given access to bonds so they could get out so you would not have an overcrowding of the jails,” Skandalakis said.
“And there is another reason you wanted to make sure you kept jail populations low during the pandemic. And that is the health costs that the counties must incur if you were to have an outbreak and if you had to send a number of people to be hospitalized. That, of course, would affect the bottom line of the counties.”
PACGA members, according to the group’s website, assist prosecutors throughout the Peach State with training, professional development, and legal research, among several other tasks.
Skandalakis also said Tuesday that pay scale issues stemming from the Great Recession of 2008 created massive vacancy rates in his profession.
“A prosecutor with three to five years of experience can handle three times the cases that a junior prosecutor can. A public defender who has experience can handle many more cases than a junior public defender who is just coming in,” Skandalakis said.
“If you want cases moved in the justice system then it is essential that we have the ability to retain and recruit experienced prosecutors.”
The city of Atlanta is advertising for a director of violence reduction. Crime has increased so much that residents of nearby Buckhead formally want to secede from the city. Buckhead is a residential district of Atlanta. The man leading that secession movement told The Georgia Star News last week that the new director of violence reduction, regardless of who takes the job, won’t influence Buckhead residents to have second thoughts about leaving.
Georgia Speaker of the House David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) last month proposed spending $3 million in additional state law enforcement resources to fight Atlanta’s worsening crime problem. Ralston said state legislators will consider his proposals during the 2022 legislative sessions appropriations process.
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