Georgia subcommittee to explore prison safety, funding

(The Center Square) — A Georgia subcommittee will soon explore safety and conditions at Georgia’s prisons and potential spending requests stemming from the assessment.

The House Special Subcommittee of Appropriations on State Prisons will function as a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.

“The General Assembly has placed significant emphasis on improving the safety, security and conditions of our state-operated corrections facilities,” Speaker of the House Jon Burns, R-Newington, who appointed the committee, said in a statement.

As of July 1, Georgia’s prisons had more than 51,000 inmates, including more than 47,000 male inmates. In fiscal 2025, state lawmakers appropriated more than $1.5 billion for the Department of Corrections, most of which was state taxpayer money.

“Given the substantial investment our state makes on our correctional system, it’s crucial that we continuously assess how Georgians’ tax dollars are being utilized and the results they yield,” state Rep. Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta, said in a statement. “We are aware of the pressing challenges, particularly concerning issues such as violence within facilities and high turnover rates among staff, and I am eager to engage actively within this subcommittee to collaborate, identify and implement viable solutions that address these critical issues head-on.”

According to its website, the committee hasn’t set any hearing dates.

Last month, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and the Georgia Department of Corrections announced a system-wide assessment of the state corrections system to identify strengths and opportunities — and possible recommendations — to improve the state prison system’s “efficiency and effectiveness.”

“Over the years, our correctional facilities have faced significant challenges, particularly regarding safety, security and living conditions for both inmates and staff,” state Rep. Bill Werkheiser, R-Glennville, said in a statement. “We recognize that improvements are necessary to enhance the infrastructure, increase staffing levels and provide adequate resources for inmate programs that focus on reintegration into society. At the same time, we must remain steadfast in our commitment to fiscal responsibility, ensuring that your taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently and effectively.”

State Reps. Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin; Leesa Hagan, R-Lyons; Bill Hitchens, R-Rincon; Alan Powell, R-Hartwell; and Al Williams, D-Midway, will also serve on the subcommittee. Hatchett will serve as its chair.