Its become a hot button issue in Savannah, Chatham County and around the state.
Parole. Who should get out early and why?
Issues which lawmakers want to address. Thursday night they looked to the public to add their questions to the list.
24 offenders on parole in Chatham County who were convicted of new crimes in the last year.
157 arrested in Chatham County since the beginning of 2016.
While those numbers make up less than 3% of all offenders, they still scare many folks.
Many of those people came to Calvary Baptist Church for a forum on parole which quickly turned instead into a referendum on crime..and local leaders.
“Crime will touch you even if you are in the middle of it.”
“The better he is the person has to make a change for themselves.(applause)”
“We’ve got leadership that has failed just us in this house tonight but our entire city..all our community.”
People had an open mic and wanted to use it. To express their opinions on guns.
“Once a gun has been involved in a crime, we should destroy it”
To the people in jail serving time for their crimes.
“It bothers me that we see them as beasts and criminals and we want to throw away the key and forget about them. Perhaps they are victims too. Perhaps they’ve been raped, molested, victimized. Who is going to help them.”
More than 100 folks came to Calvary Baptist Church to speak to the gathered group of lawmakers, city and county leaders for a forum led by Representative Jesse Petrea and Savannah Councilman Julian Miller.
The topic was supposed to be parole rules but in two hours, that barely came up.
“How much discretion does this body have. It seems like they are exercising it without any checks and balances over time.”
Instead the focus became the people committing those crimes, how to stop them, or how to help.
“People that are working don’t commit criminal acts at nearly the same rate of people who were not,” explained SCMPD Chief Jack Lumpkin.
“We understand that if you help folks become employed and they have a roof over their head The likelihood of their success is greatly increased,” explained Mike Nail, Commissioner of the Georgia Dept of Community Supervision.
No one from the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Parole was at the meeting but they do say changes are coming. The board has agreed to give District Attorneys and police force 6 months notice before parole hearings for those most violent offenders in Georgia. Some lawmakers still believe more transparency into the entire parole process is needed.
Statement from Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles
Savannah does have a crime problem; however parole is not the problem. Less than 2.5% of all Chatham County arrests since January 1st were offenders on parole. Parole arrests for a felony offense in Chatham County are 6 tenths of one (1) percent.
The Parole Board continues working with local officials toward consensus regarding public safety in Chatham County. The Board already has implemented an additional parole consideration notification for those offenders serving for the most serious felony offenses as agreed upon by district attorneys across the state. This process notifies district attorneys six (6) months prior to the Board consideration of parole and seeks input on the case.