Banishment: Exile Permitted Under Current Georgia and Federal Criminal Law

Although exile seems like an archaic form of punishment, it is still occasionally used in criminal cases under both Georgia and federal law. This week In Cha Britto, the madam of a massage parlor in Macon, Georgia, pleaded guilty to two counts of keeping a place of prostitution. She received a two-year suspended jail sentence, a $2,000 fine, and banishment from Bibb County, Georgia. Britto has already moved to Atlanta.

Last year, the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed a Georgia court’s banishment of Gregory Mac Terry from all of Georgia’s counties other than Toombs during ten years of probation following a twenty-year sentence. Toombs County is the home of Vidalia onions and the 0.2 square mile town of Santa Claus, Georgia. It is more than 200 miles from his home in Douglas County. Although his tentative parole date was last month, Terry is still incarcerated.

The Georgia Constitution explicitly bars banishment from the entire state, along with whipping. A 1912 book on Georgia’s constitution explained that the “paragraph was inserted in the Constitution to add banishment and whipping to the class … which the enlightened humanity of the present day regards as, in fact, cruel.” However, the Supreme Court of Georgia reasoned that allowing Terry to reside in Toombs County was permissible under the narrow language of the Constitutional provision because he could still reside in Toombs County. The court focused on the rationale for the banishment: Terry’s documented history of disobeying restraining orders and assaulting his ex-wife in Douglas County.

Certain Georgia counties use banishment as a form of punishment more often than others. The Bibb County prosecutor in Britto’s case said that it is not standard or routine there and that Britto is the first person she’s seen banished in her 15 years in the Solicitor’s Office. Houston County, however, has banished more than 500 defendants since 1998. Although Terry’s banishment is to only one rural county in the state, banishments since 2006 must be to a location no smaller than an entire judicial circuit.

Banishments are significantly less common in federal cases, but are allowable under 18 U.S.C. § 3563 (b), regarding conditions of probation that the court may impose. Just this March, the First Circuit (the federal court that hears appeals in criminal cases from various states in the Northeastern portion of the United States) affirmed a sentence in which the District Court had banished defendants from Suffolk County, Massachusetts during their probation.