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Juvenile justice overhaul sees no quick fix

Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012 2:40 PM
Last updated 8:14 PM
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ATLANTA -- A commission of judges, legislators, cops and lawyers wound up Tuesday’s meeting with more questions than answers in its quest to overhaul the way Georgia handles misbehaving minors.

The commission is following up its work last year that led to sentencing reforms for adults by looking at ways to improve the effectiveness of the state’s system of dealing with 40,000 juvenile delinquents each year. It is working with consultants who are gathering information at the commission’s request.

Tuesday, consultant Kristy Danford recounted what she learned from interviewing workers in the juvenile system and how they use various questionnaires to predict the likelihood that individual teens or children are dangerous or likely to commit another crime. For the average kid in the system, it comes down to a coin toss, but the commission wants to improve those odds.

Danford warned that getting change is a slow process.

“It’s really hard work. It’s more of a marathon. You don’t just flip a switch,” she told them.

Commission Co-Chairman Mike Boggs, a former legislator and Waycross judge who now sits on the Georgia Court of Appeals, said any reforms would depend on sending each youthful offender to the right program based on their risk.

“Everything we’re considering depends on the validity of those assessments,” he said.

Jason Newman, a consultant with the Pew Center on the States, said more research was needed to determine which assessment questionnaires the various courts use.

Other commissioners raised concern that students are being sent to the juvenile system for minor offenses that schools used to take care of with paddling.

“I’m asking this question at the risk of sounding like a terrible throwback, a hopeless redneck,” said Ken Shigley, president of the State Bar of Georgia.

Clayton County Juvenile Court Judge Steven Teske noted that the number of students in his county sent to the juvenile courts for disorderly conduct and school fights ballooned after police officers were assigned to schools.

“We know from the research that if you arrest a kid on campus, he’s twice as likely not to graduate. If they appear in court, they’re four times as likely not to graduate,” he said. “... It’s a toxic stressor when you’ve got a kid who’s 13 years old and you put him in the back of a patrol car.”

While the commission waits more research from its consultants, its members will break into committees to explore topics in detail. It has to wind up its work with recommendations to the governor and legislature by year end.

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soapy_725 09/18/12 - 03:35 pm
More crime more criminials

than the system can handle. Sounds like the beginning of chaos and anarchy in the streets. If the judges and social planners can't handle lawless youth, who can? The village? The village is creating them faster that society can absorb. "It take a long time to sort theses issues out". And the production line keep running.

Sweet son
Sweet son 09/19/12 - 12:49 pm
The Fix should start at home but

since there is no such thing as a "home" for most of the juveniles who find themselves in the system; there is no fix! Single parent homes where Mama is in charge and sperm donors don't participate make the perfect recipe for failure!

Hucklebuck 09/19/12 - 07:01 pm

I am a former employee with DJJ. I was a juvenile probation officer. I often got harassed from being to hard on the children. I was extremely strict on the kids and they respected that. I wanted them to absolutely hate me. i wasn't there to baby them. I left when it got to the point where they didn't want to lock any of the kids up if they offended while they are already on probation. All they were doing was feeding the adult system. I told the kids the the world willl not give a damn about your problems and excuses and i wasn't. You either follow the law or get locked up. Sometimes things aren't as complex as they seem.

Patty-P 09/22/12 - 11:22 am
Hucklebuck is right. Still

Hucklebuck is right. Still can't figure out why people think the key to discipline is to ignore the behavior. Punishment should be strict and be effective enough that the criminal doesn't want to commit the crime again. It seems like they reward crime nowadays.

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