Practice of Early Conditional Release and Replacement of Unserved Part of Sentence with Lighter Penalty in Georgia
The Public Defender’s Office of Georgia has studied the practice of early conditional release of convicts and replacement of the unserved part of a sentence with a lighter penalty, as well as the regulatory framework, and reflected the practical and legislative shortcomings in this special report.
The Public Defender believes that proper functioning of the mechanism requires that certain measures be taken in a timely manner, so that prisoners can be fully focused on proper fulfilment of their obligations during serving their sentences and the process of re-socialization, and thus be hopeful for the effective use of the mechanism.
The present report analyzes the 2018-2019 practices of early conditional release of prisoners and replacement of the unserved part of sentences with lighter penalties. The Public Defender's Office requested and analyzed the decisions made by all six local councils in a total of 1 413 cases, attended oral hearings of all six councils and studied 95 judgments.
The analysis revealed that:
- Local councils do not substantiate decisions and do not indicate the motivation, due to which, they pay more attention to one of the critera and less attention to others
- Decisions are diverse, the councils make different decisions in cases with similar factual circumstances
- In many cases, the councils do not pay attention to the limitation period of disciplinary misconduct, the severity of the misconduct, the severity of the penalty imposed, or the positive behavior of the prisoner after the misconduct. As a result, even minor disciplinary misconduct committed years ago could serve as grounds for the refusal of early release of a prisoner
- Inaccuracies can be found in a number of decisions of the councils, which in many cases serve as a prerequisite for making a worse decision for the prisoner
- The council’s motivation for oral hearing of a case is not foreseeable
- Judicial practice is diverse. The court does not identically explain the scope of the discretionary powers of local councils and the rule of assessing the appropriateness of a decision made by the council on the basis of its discretionary power.
In addition to the practical shortcomings, the Public Defender believes that it is necessity to improve the normative framework and to pay attention to more criteria in the process of early conditional release and replacement of the unserved part of a sentence with a lighter penalty, including the aspects relating to the convict’s future plans, prospects, opportunities and etc.
This special report also refers to the progress made after 2013-2014. The parole mechanism first fell under the particular attention of the Public Defender during that very period.
This report highlights the growing statistics on early conditional releases in 2019 compared to 2018. However, improved statistics do not automatically mean improved quality of the work.
The Public Defender welcomes the improvement strategy for penitentiary and crime prevention systems, as well as the consideration of the need for the improvement of the parole methodology, development of procedures and assessment system in the 2019-2020 action plan, and hopes that this process will be completed successfully this year, while the problems identified by the Public Defender’s Office and the recommendations made by the Office will be taken into consideration in the process of reforming the mechanism.