A question of justice: A closer look at Georgia's sentencing laws

Sarah Page Dukes: beloved daughter, musician, STAR student, heroin addict, armed robber, state prisoner, recovering addict, beloved teacher. Page’s story of promise, ruin and redemption is also the story of the state’s practice of locking up certain offenders for long terms, without parole.

Georgia’s 20-year-old “Seven Deadly Sins” law set forth mandatory sentences for a range of serious crimes. Armed robbery convicts like Page, for example, must serve a minimum of 10 years without parole. The result? Georgia’s prison population has soared as prisoners stay locked up for longer, and taxpayers are paying hundreds of millions of dollars more to keep them there.

Just last week, a bill was filed in the Legislature to allow the courts some flexibility in mandatory minimums.

Print and digital subscribers can read “A Question of Justice,” Page’s extraordinary story, and learn about the debate over mandatory minimums, in Sunday’s AJC. You will also be faced with the thorny question of whether this young woman belongs in prison for 10 years.

To see an interactive graphic that shows how Georgia's prison budget has grown, as well as data on prison terms and the state's prison population, click here.