Valdosta Daily Times

Top News

October 6, 2012

Georgia looking at ways to reform juvenile justice

ATLANTA — After overhauling its adult criminal justice system this year to provide alternative sentences for nonviolent offenders and reduce skyrocketing prison costs, the state of Georgia is turning its attention to the juvenile justice system.

Gov. Nathan Deal in May extended the tenure of the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform, which made recommendations to state lawmakers for this year’s reform of the adult system. As the council tackles the juvenile justice system they are examining ways to reduce recidivism, deal more effectively with low-risk offenders and ensure that the state is getting the greatest return on its juvenile justice spending.

“Clearly, we’re not experiencing the outcomes that the taxpayers of this state deserve and that public safety demands,” said council co-chair and state Court of Appeals Judge Michael Boggs, adding that a lot of low-risk offenders are spending time in costly facilities that may not be the best option for them.

The council has held several meetings since July and has solicited the help of the Pew Center on the States, which also provided data analysis for the council’s adult criminal justice reform recommendations. Pew consultants are analyzing data from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the courts and the Department of Juvenile Justice to identify key challenges in the state.

Some key findings include: the recidivism rate has essentially remained flat for the last decade; offense types and risk levels have not changed significantly over the past decade; most juveniles in out-of-home placement have seen shorter lengths of stay in the past five to 10 years, except for designated felons, who have seen their lengths of stay increase.

Georgia’s juvenile code was adopted more than 40 years ago, and research and thinking on juvenile justice has evolved considerably since then, said Kirsten Widner, director of policy and advocacy at the Barton and Law Policy Center at Emory University.

“The data that the council has been reviewing show very consistently that we are overusing our secure detention resources on low-level offenders,” she said. “I’m very hopeful that the council is going to interpret this information in positive ways and really help us take a step forward.”

Some juvenile offenders, especially those charged with relatively minor offenses and who are considered low risk, are allowed to remain at home with some level of supervision, while others are placed in out-of-home facilities.

There are three types of out-of-home placement: regional youth detention centers, which are like adult jails and are meant for short-term stays, generally prior to adjudication; youth development campuses, which are like adult prisons and are meant for juveniles committed to the department for a longer period of time; and non-secure residential facilities, which are like supervised group homes.

The state’s recidivism rate — which in Georgia is measured by the number of juveniles who commit another offense within three years — is about 50 percent, and has been rising slightly for those coming out of youth development campuses.

“What that tells us is that in Georgia public safety outcomes are not getting better,” Pew’s Jason Newman said. “And the real question is why is that happening and what can a state do to utilize its resources more effectively in order to reduce that recidivism rate?”

The council is looking at low-risk offenders, especially those in out-of-home placements to see if there’s a more effective way for the state to use its resources. It costs about $90,000 a year for an offender to stay at a youth development campus and about $30,000 a year at a non-secure residential facility, Newman said.

“What the research shows us is if you’re going to be effective in reducing recidivism, you should focus your resources on the higher risk offenders to get the biggest bang for your buck,” Newman said.

A majority of offenses committed by juveniles are non-violent. Among the young offenders allowed to remain at home, 76 percent are considered low risk for reoffending. Even in youth detention centers and regional youth development campuses, more than a third of the offenders are low-risk, while nearly half are low-risk in the non-secure residential facilities.

Young offenders do better when they’re allowed to stay at home with strong supervision and programs to help them, said Clayton County Juvenile Court Chief Judge Steven Teske, who was added to the council this year.

“The research says if you take a low-risk kid and you treat that low-risk kid as if he’s high-risk by committing him to an institution, you’re going to make him worse,” Teske said. “We are, to some extent, making kids worse.”

Locking up fewer kids would reduce recidivism and would also allow the redirection of state funds to more effective community-based programs to help prevent delinquency, he said. Rather than spending tens of thousands of dollars a year to house a young offender, the state could spend under $10,000 to provide appropriate community intervention, including electronic monitoring if necessary, he said.

The council plans to break into work groups to discuss specific issues through October and November and then will draw up a report with recommendations for the governor and General Assembly by the end of the year.

1
Text Only
Top News
  • Bears spotted on Baytree Road

    A pair of bear sightings along Baytree Road could indicate a growing black bear population in Lowndes County.

    July 29, 2014

  • photo.JPG Dump truck suspects apprehended

    LCSO has apprehended both of the suspects believed to be connected with the theft of a dump truck in Macon on Monday.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Dollar Tree-Family Do_Rich copy.jpg Dollar Tree buys Family Dollar

    The fight for penny pinchers is intensifying.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • APTOPIX Mideast Israe_Rich copy.jpg Gaza war rages despite Hamas, Israel truce pledges

    Israel and Hamas launched new attacks Sunday in the raging Gaza war, despite going back and forth over proposals for a temporary halt to nearly three weeks of fighting ahead of a major Muslim holiday.
    The failure to reach even a brief humanitarian lull in the fighting illustrated the difficulties in securing a more permanent truce as the sides remain far apart on their terms.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ga. woman sentenced in child abuse case

    The mother of a 1-year-old boy who was hospitalized with a fractured skull in 2012 has been sentenced to nine years in prison.

    July 29, 2014

  • AP81072904918 copy.jpg Today in History for Tuesday, July 29, 2014

    Today is Tuesday, July 29, the 210th day of 2014. There are 155 days left in the year.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • United Way presents fundraising prom

    Save the date — and make sure to find one — for The Prom, a retro-celebration to benefit the Greater Valdosta United Way.

    July 29, 2014

  • Times hosts blood drive

    The Valdosta Daily Times will participate in a blood drive, 12:30-5:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 1, with the American Red Cross Bloodmobile visiting The Times’ 201 N. Troup St. parking lot.

    July 29, 2014

  • Free health fair planned for Quitman on Aug. 9

    A free health fair hosted by the 100 Black Men of Brooks-Grady-and-Thomas Counties, Inc. and sponsored by Archbold Hospital will take place Aug. 9  from 8 a.m.-noon. The second annual 100 B-G-T Health Fair will be located at the Courtland Avenue Church of Christ in Quitman. All Valdosta-Lowndes County residents are welcome to attend.

    July 29, 2014

  • Lake Park considers millage rate increase

    Lake Park has tentatively adopted a millage rate which will result in a 29.64 percent increase in property taxes.

    July 28, 2014

Top News
Poll

Do you agree with the millage rate increases?

Yes. We need to maintain services
No. Services should have been cut.
     View Results