GBI budget cuts putting strain on prosecutors - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

GBI budget cuts putting strain on prosecutors

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October 1, 2003

Colquitt County - Solving crime in Georgia may take a little longer than normal. The GBI is cutting back on services including testing marijuana. Not only are the budget cuts effecting law enforcement, but also prosecutors.

GBI budget cuts are creating more work for drug agents around the state. Colquitt County Drug Squad Commander, Jerry Green, says, "We'll have to be testing our own marijuana."

A major stash can be sent to the crime lab, but any amount under 10 pounds will have to be done in house. Colquitt County drug agents had do to do extra training. Green adds, "Not really a problem, just a little inconvenient and little cost, but not that bad."

It is bad for GBI agents. They already cut two percent in this year's budget, they're expecting to cut five percent more. That also trickles down to courtrooms. District Attorney for Southern Judicial Circuit David Miller explains, "In many cases we can't indict a person unless we have a lab report."

The G-B-I has a self imposed hiring freeze. With the lack of manpower and money, crime labs have a back log of evidence to test. Miller adds, "If we have somebody murdered or raped in Moultrie or Thomasville today and they send that evidence to the GBI Crime lab, it's going to sit in the Atlanta lab for four to five months before anyone opens the rape kit to do the DNA testing on it."

This bogs down prosecutors and pushes back trials. Drug agents say there are advantages as far as testing their own marijuana, they'll get results back quicker.

The GBI has budgeted $61,250,127 for the 2004 fiscal year. Agents have proposed eliminating certain programs like D.A.R.E.

The lack of manpower has also forced agents to pick and chose what to test. If it's a drug case, they'll test cocaine over a lesser charge of marijuana.

posted at 5:30PM by kathryn.simmons@walb.com