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New juvenile justice law goes into effect in Georgia

Juvenile offenders in Georgia have faced a variety of punishments in the past. Now, the juvenile justice system will see some changes this year. A new law went into effect that aims to reduce the number of juvenile offenders in prison as well as reduce costs to the state. 

The new law only requires juvenile offenders who commit serious offenses to be put in custody. Juveniles who commit minor offenses will be put into community programs instead of being sent to a juvenile detention center or prison. 

The new law stipulates that the Department of Juvenile Justice will have to use three assessment tools. The DJJ will have to determine if the minor should be detained until a court hearing and determine the juvenile's risk level. This will help judges determine the appropriate sentence for the offender and create an individual plan to reduce the chances the offender will commit another offense. 

Many different groups seem to support the new law and changes to Georgia's juvenile justice system. The Department of Juvenile Justice commissioner said that the new law will help juveniles who are neglected or abused become a part of the community instead of just sending them to a facility to serve their sentence. He also said that the new law will reduce the taxpayer's costs by not making them pay for prison costs for low-level, low-risk youth offenders.

Many attorneys also support the new law, saying it will help troubled teens find community support that can reduce the risk of future criminal offenses that often tend to escalate after each offense. 

The changes to the state's juvenile justice system should result in more juveniles being sentenced to community service and other programs instead of being sent to a detention center. 

Source: WALB, "2014 brings change to the Georgia Juvenile Justice System," Nicole Rosales, Jan. 1, 2014

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