- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal plans to propose creating a new state agency to oversee probation and parole supervision during Wednesday’s State of the State address.

Deal told The Associated Press that moving the responsibility away from the current supervisors -the Department of Corrections, the Department of Juvenile Justice and the State Board of Pardons and Paroles - will eliminate duplicate visits to the same address. It also could smooth the re-entry process for those leaving prisons with only one officer to check in with, he said.

Deal said his administration will need to convince judges and state parole board members that their sentencing or release conditions will be strictly enforced.

“We’re talking about individuals who are on the street. They’re not locked up. They’re moving in our society,” Deal said “If it’s not done properly, ultimately public safety is at risk.”

The change would require some additional training for officers, who may not be accustomed to working with people on probation versus those on parole. Probation is granted by judges, suspending a convicted person’s sentence with conditions. Parole is granted by the state board and also comes with specific conditions.

Long-term, Deal said he hopes the change will save the state financially by cutting down on the number of officers needed to supervise parolees and probationers across the state. The funding for the new agency in Deal’s budget proposal for next year will be taken from the existing agencies, he said.

Deal’s advisers also expect some questions over officers’ employment benefits. Deal and members of his staff said they believe employees for all three entities overseeing the work now can change agencies without their retirement or other benefits being affected.

Criminal justice has been a focal point for the Republican since his first term. The effort now is in its third phase and took center stage in Deal’s inaugural address this week, with a focus on education and other programming offered in state prisons that aims to lower the number of inmates who re-offend and are locked up again. Deal said the agency proposal is a small part of that work.

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