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Sweeping juvenile justice law to take effect with new year in Georgia

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ATLANTA — A sweeping law in Georgia that aims to reduce the number of juvenile offenders in custody and save taxpayer money is set to take effect with the new year.

The Georgia Legislature this year passed a sweeping overhaul of the state's juvenile justice system, aiming to reduce the number of repeat offenders and reduce costs.   FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
FILE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Georgia Legislature this year passed a sweeping overhaul of the state's juvenile justice system, aiming to reduce the number of repeat offenders and reduce costs.


Under the new law, only the most serious young offenders would be kept in custody, while others convicted of more minor offenses will diverted into community-based programs. In addition to cutting costs, the law is meant to reduce the rate at which young offenders return to jail.

“When you look at it, Georgia’s getting smart on crime and getting right on crime,” Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery D. Niles said.

Nearly two-thirds of the budget of the Department of Juvenile Justice is devoted to the operation of detention facilities, where it costs more than $90,000 per year to house each offender. Community-based programs cost about $3,000 per person, according to department numbers.

About 65 percent of kids who are locked up commit new crimes once they’re released.

It’s important to lock up only those young people who are truly dangerous not those who simply misbehave, said Clayton County Juvenile Court Judge Steve Teske, who was on the committee that submitted recommendations for the reform to lawmakers

“If you use harsh tactics on the kids who make you mad, you make them worse,” he said.

The new law tasks the Department of Juvenile Justice with developing three assessment tools.

The first is used to determine whether the young person should be detained pending a court hearing. The second assesses the risk level to help a judge determine the best sentence. And the third is meant to determine the factors that might contribute to a youth reoffending and to come up with a plan to address those.

The law also says judges won’t be able to lock up young people who commit “status offenses,” acts that are only prohibited by law because of the offender’s age, like truancy and running away. A new classification — “children in need of services” or CHINS — has been created for those who were previously called “unruly children.”

The legislation pushes a variety of agencies, including the Department of Juvenile Justice, the courts, the Division of Family and Children Services and law enforcement to work together to examine how they deal with those young people, DFCS director Sharon Hill said. Instead of sending them away to be locked up, the agencies will have to develop a service plan that includes requirements for children but also for parents or guardians. The goal is to get to the root of the problem and not just to treat the symptoms, Hill said.

Judges also won’t be able to commit young offenders unless there are four prior convictions, and one must be a felony.

To critics who say that means a young offender could commit dozens of misdemeanors without being locked up, Teske counters by pointing out another key element of the law reinvests the savings from not locking up as many children into community-based treatment programs for those who are not considered a danger to themselves or the community.

Those community-based programs have been proven to reduce recidivism, and they often include intensive therapy for the child and his family, said Melissa Carter, executive director of the Barton Child Law and Policy Center at Emory University, who also helped develop recommendations for the reform. The new assessment instruments should also help improve rehabilitation for those who are committed, she said.

“We can have greater confidence that at the end of their detention sentence or at the end of their treatment in the community, we’re going to have children who are better able to become self-sufficient and pro-social adults,” she said.

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avidreader
3560
Points
avidreader 12/26/13 - 08:42 am
2
0
Parents Too!

". . . the agencies will have to develop a service plan that includes requirements for children but also for parents or guardians."

I have kept a close eye on the development of this new plan, and it makes sense that the state is finally going to lead (or force) the parents down the recovery road, along with the child. Hopefully, many parents will reach a new awareness of how important it is to keep a loving watch over the day-to-day activities of their children.

jimmymac
47688
Points
jimmymac 12/26/13 - 09:39 am
1
0
JUVENILES
Unpublished

The problem with most juvenile offenders is that they largely come from dysfunctional homes. If the state thinks they'll have success getting those lazy parents involved, good luck. If most of the kids had parental support they wouldn't have gotten into trouble in the first place.

dichotomy
37487
Points
dichotomy 12/26/13 - 09:50 am
2
0
Our road to FREE PASS and NO

Our road to FREE PASS and NO FEAR OF PUNISHMENT continues.

"Judges also won’t be able to commit young offenders unless there are four prior convictions, and one must be a felony."

Really? So the first 4 incidents of thieving, thugging, and shoplifting are a FREE PASS and then they actually have to shoot someone or do an armed robbery or something before we even consider actual punishment.

I know I have lived too long to be relevant. Our lawmakers are giving them FREE PASSES and I am advocating lowering the age for death penalty eligibility to 14 and mandatory prison sentences for stealing/shoplifting/burglary for anyone 14 or older. It's what you would call a philosophical difference.

Little Lamb
49079
Points
Little Lamb 12/26/13 - 09:54 am
1
0
Absurdities

1. A new classification — “children in need of services” or CHINS — has been created for those who were previously called “unruly children.” — — Okay, that should really help the situation.

2. Nearly two-thirds of the budget of the Department of Juvenile Justice is devoted to the operation of detention facilities, where it costs more than $90,000 per year to house each offender. Community-based programs cost about $3,000 per person, according to department numbers. — — At first blush the new programs would start resulting in huge surpluses in the state treasury because they would begin saving $87,000 dollars per year per child. But I'm not holding my breath waiting to see the surpluses.

3, The legislation pushes a variety of agencies, including the Department of Juvenile Justice, the courts, the Division of Family and Children Services and law enforcement to work together to examine how they deal with those young people, DFCS director Sharon Hill said. Instead of sending them away to be locked up, the agencies will have to develop a service plan that includes requirements for children but also for parents or guardians. — — A DFCS service plan, yeah, that'll help. Isn't DFCS showing up often in the news exposing failures in carrying out their current mandate? How can they be expected to take on something new, given their track record?

4. Those community-based programs have been proven to reduce recidivism . . . said Melissa Carter, executive director of the Barton Child Law and Policy Center at Emory University, who also helped develop recommendations for the reform. — — I'd be a little skeptical of Melissa Carter's claim. It's like a used car salesman saying the car was driven by a little old lady and only on Sundays.

corgimom
38453
Points
corgimom 12/26/13 - 11:11 am
2
0
"To critics who say that

"To critics who say that means a young offender could commit dozens of misdemeanors without being locked up, Teske counters by pointing out another key element of the law reinvests the savings from not locking up as many children into community-based treatment programs for those who are not considered a danger to themselves or the community."

I personally consider children that are stealing other people's things a definite danger to the community; how can anybody think otherwise?

itsanotherday1
48334
Points
itsanotherday1 12/26/13 - 11:27 am
1
0
I agree dichot, with a proviso:

"I am advocating lowering the age for death penalty eligibility to 14 and mandatory prison sentences for stealing/shoplifting/burglary for anyone 14 or older. It's what you would call a philosophical difference."

We abandon the "screw 'em, let them rot" attitude. We are turning soft criminals into hardened criminals if there is not at least an effort to rehabilitate. A lot of those horses you lead to water won't drink, but for those that do, we are better off when they hit the streets again.

That is what I like about three strikes laws. The first time can be considered a mistake. The second you get the benefit of the doubt. The third; you have proven to be a menace to society, beyond rehabilitation, and will stay behind bars until you are dead.

Little Lamb
49079
Points
Little Lamb 12/26/13 - 11:46 am
1
0
Three Strikes

Haven't those laws been done away with?

myfather15
56766
Points
myfather15 12/27/13 - 05:52 am
2
0
I would like to know where

I would like to know where the $90,000.00 number came from!! Was it put there just to pad the numbers and make it look worse than it is? Giving us the perception this will save more money?

Because the average cost to incarcerate an individual, certainly fluctuates, depending on the State and cost of living in that State. Such as California, I believe the annual cost of an individual inmate is around $50,000.00. But in States such as South Carolina, Florida the average cost is around $30,000.00-$37,000.000 per inmate.

I've done a LOT of research on this, because I've spent 17 years in LE and I've never heard a number anywhere NEAR $90,000.00 per years!!! That is astronomical!! I believe this number was just padded to make us believe we are saving an enormous amount of money. Why do they feel the need to lie to us?

kboccia
2
Points
kboccia 12/27/13 - 02:09 pm
0
2
Reform is the key

Unless you have personally been involved with the criminal justice system, have a loved one who is incarcerated in Georgia, or have had an opportunity to see what goes on in our jails, than you have no idea of the facts.
We are warehousing our kids with mass incarceration. Most have addiction and mental health issues that the jails and prisons are not equipped to handle. The revolving door syndrome will only get worse if we don’t start with programs like these.
The $90,000.00 number might be inflated, but the facts are the facts, we spend more to incarcerate than to rehabilitate. And incarceration only creates a smarter, more dangerous criminal who we toss right back to the neighborhood where they committed their offenses.
If you are willing to pitch in and help with solutions, than keep on posting, if not, that sit back and enjoy the free ride.

myfather15
56766
Points
myfather15 12/27/13 - 05:59 pm
2
0
What "free ride"?

Sorry, but the "ride" isn't free when there are victims out here who are being assaulted, stolen from, vandalized and homes burglarized!! I've worked the streets for 17 years!! I know the TRUTH, not just some rhetoric that YOU like to spout!! I know the system currenly only incarcerates the worst of the worst!! Now it's going to do less? Anyone is a LIAR, who says children are being incarcerated for misdemeanor offenses!!! It just doesn't happen!! On misdemeanor offenses, DJJ always says to do a report and turn them back over to their parents.

The last case I worked, where a juvenile was actually detained at RYDC was in August and the juvenile had burglarized 5 homes and 3 businesses, in the same night. Before this, he had recent convictions of arson and burglary, so he shouldn't have been out to begin with!! Now we have EIGHT additional victims, that enjoyed your "free ride". So tell them about your FREE RIDE!!

Pops
14399
Points
Pops 12/27/13 - 06:18 pm
1
0
There are some really

misguided people posting on these forums.....you know who you are...
hint....myfather15 is not one of them......

Bulldog
1333
Points
Bulldog 12/28/13 - 09:54 am
1
0
I wonder

I wonder where this came from. I do not recall any public debate on this "law" during the last legislative session. (Maybe I've been asleep.) Laws in GA traditionally take effect in June or July after being passed. Can anyone publish the code citation on this "law". I am left wondering if this is not law, but administrative regulation changes...

nocnoc
49162
Points
nocnoc 12/28/13 - 07:13 pm
0
0
Costs stated for teens vs. adults?

ADULTS = $18,683 per year per inmate (2011 figures)
Teens not listed ???????

http://www.dcor.state.ga.us/pdf/CorrectionsCosts.pdf

GOV Deal has promoted the idea that $90,000 a bed for
a year in our juveniles system.

I have dug 6 ways coming and going, I see NOTHING to justify that much difference between adults and teens.

USELESS they are using that Political Action group called
Justicepolicy.org
developed figures, which are suspect because of their Anti-Juvey prison agenda.

I worked RYDC 2 years under Mr. Howard Clack and Mr. Chesser
while attended college, later working next door at YDC 1 year.

BTW: Today is worse than back then.

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