AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Georgia drug cases: Who deserves relief from long prison sentences?

Do prison sentences lasting decades -- or even life -- make sense for non-violent crimes?

These days, both Republicans and Democrats say it's time to rethink some of the long sentences that were part of the nation's War on Drugs. In Georgia, a new law kicked in on July 1 that is offering relief to a small group of drug offenders serving long sentences. President Barack Obama is also pushing for early release for some drug offenders in the federal system.

But who should get released and who shouldn't? That's a question policy makers ponder. Check out how Georgia's new law is working so far, with this special AJC online extra that profiles real criminal cases.  This online extra tells the stories of repeat offenders with long sentences. Some have gained release, but others have not. Review the case summaries and see whether you think the punishments fit the crimes.

Georgia's new law is considered a starting point, with some leading policy makers saying it would make sense to offer parole consideration to some drug offenders who aren't eligible now.

For more details on the new law, read our special report from Sunday's newspaper that explains the new law and tells the story of Darion Barker, the first person to be released from prison under Georgia's new law.


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About the Author

Carrie Teegardin is on the investigative team. She is a graduate of Duke University and has won numerous national journalism awards.