Georgia Panel Vote on Key Juvenile Justice Reforms next Week

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A blue-ribbon panel in Georgia is making the last tweaks to its recommendations for a statewide juvenile justice overhaul, ahead of a vote scheduled for Dec. 13.

“There are ongoing meetings and discussions about a fiscal incentive model similar to Ohio,” said state Court of Appeals Judge Mike Boggs at a Dec. 4 meeting of the Georgia Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform in Forsyth, Ga.

The so-called Ohio model, named for the state that pioneered it in the early 1990s, channels certain low-level offenders away from state custody and into locally-run diversion programs.  The Georgia Council may recommend some formula to give financial incentives to counties for treating or diverting kids who are guilty of certain misdemeanors or things that are only illegal because of their youth, such as truancy. Ohio counties use programs like counseling and community service.

“You will see more on that. Hopefully that can be finalized by the time the report is generated,” Boggs told the Council. “Just know that is ongoing and we have not seen the final iteration on what that will look like yet.”

The Council’s juvenile justice subcommittees released draft recommendations last month. A final list of recommendations approved by the whole 21-member Council of judges, attorneys, law enforcement and others are due to Governor Nathan Deal by the end of this year.

Other measures likely to be recommended would mandate uniform statewide methods of assessing a youth’s health and risk of further offending, setting caseloads, and data collection and measurement and auditing.

“I feel a lot of hope and confidence that the legislature will respond,” said state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, a member of the Council and noted author of child-protection legislation.

Success of Ohio-model reforms, she said, would “be based on local leadership,” adding that she hopes people like sheriffs, judges and county commissions would “take the opportunity” to do things differently.

“The bill I expect will start in the House,” said Boggs, adding that their recommendations are probably a “work in progress” that will be tweaked in the legislature.

Georgia’s next state legislative session begins Jan.  14.

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