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Pew Center studies additional juvenile justice reform in Georgia

At one time, Georgia was among the leading states in the nation for tough-on-crime sentences. Along with a number of other states, Georgia is working on reforming the current sentencing system that costs the state a great deal in prison spending but does not reform criminals. Governor Nathan Deal's Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians is looking at reform measures in the juvenile justice system that would decrease incarcerations and expenses resulting from criminal charges, while saving the prison expenses for truly violent criminals such as those facing assault charges and domestic assault.

The council first took a look at the challenges involved in the juvenile justice system as provided by the Pew Center. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Council of Juvenile Court Judges and the state Department of Juvenile Justice collected the data that provided the basis for the analysis. According to the analysis, over 50 percent of youth offenders reoffended within three years. There was also an increase in the recidivism rate of young offenders who had spent time in detention centers. Repeat criminal convictions of non-violent offenders only increase the cost to the state. The Governor's focus is getting inmates ready for society through rehabilitation and training, so that they may be contributing members of society.

The council first took a look at the challenges involved in the juvenile justice system as provided by the Pew Center. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Council of Juvenile Court Judges and the state Department of Juvenile Justice collected the data that provided the basis for the analysis. According to the analysis, over 50 percent of youth offenders reoffended within three years. There was also an increase in the recidivism rate of young offenders who had spent time in detention centers. Repeat criminal convictions of non-violent offenders only increase the cost to the state. The Governor's focus is getting inmates ready for society through rehabilitation and training, so that they may be contributing members of society.

House Bill 1176 was passed earlier this year with recommendations for a statewide system of accountability courts-which focus on requiring defendants to work, seek treatment and stay sober-and reduction of non-violent or drug-related crimes. These changes will save Georgia taxpayers approximately 264 million over the next five years.

The intention of the council is to examine further reformation of the juvenile justice system while remaining fiscally responsible and maintaining public safety.

Source: Daily Report, "Reforms studied for Georgia's juvenile justice system," Kathleen Baydala Joyner, Sept. 6, 2012

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