New senate legislation could shorten probation sentences

Georgia has more people on probation per capita than anywhere else in the country, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.

Now some lawmakers are working to change that and get offenders out of the criminal justice system much quicker.

Lawmakers have introduced bipartisan legislation that would give someone convicted of a felony the opportunity to end their probation early after three years of good behavior.

Supporters say this bill doesn't take away the accountability for someone's crime but gives them a second chance.

Torre Bryant has about two or three more years left on her 10-year probation.

"It makes you feel hopeless like you don't have a future," Bryant explained.

It stems from a felony DUI conviction in 2012.

The Rockdale County resident admits she was arrested a second time for violating that probation.

"Every time I turned around doors were being closed," Bryant said.

According to the newly introduced legislation, after serving at least three years of probation, paying all restitution and not been arrested for anything other than a non-serious traffic offense, people convicted of a felony would be eligible to end their probation sentence early.

One of the lawmakers sponsoring the bipartisan bill said  he hopes Georgians who follow the conditions of their probation "are able to transition back into society and gain meaningful employment."

"It's a great tragedy," the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse's Chief of Policy and Communications Jeff Breedlove said. "There is a revolving cycle."

The legislation only applies to people with no prior felony convictions.

According to the Georgia Justice Project, Georgia has more individuals on community supervision, probation or parole, than any other state in the country.

They said the average probation sentence in Georgia is more than six years compared to the nationwide average of just two years.

"Most people are being penalized inappropriately. The vast majority need medical attention rather than the criminal justice system," Breedlove said.

Of the more than 200,000 Georgians on probation, the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse said many of them are battling drug or alcohol abuse.

Bryant is among them.

During her second arrest, she says the court put her into a program after realizing she had mental health and substance abuse problems.

"That program helped me to realize what was going on with me. Since then everything's been going well," she said.

Bryant is now a certified peer specialist.

WATCH: FOX 5 Atlanta live news coverage


Sign up for FOX 5 email alerts

Download the FOX 5 Atlanta app for breaking news and weather alerts.