Judge Glenda Hatchet is most widely known for her nationally-syndicated television show, but many people don’t know that before she claimed fame on the tube, she served as Chief Presiding Judge of Atlanta’s Fulton County Juvenile Court. Over the years the former senior attorney for Delta Air Lines and Emory University School of Law alumna, has built up quite a reputation as a passionate advocate for parents, children and families. The author and in-demand speaker is scheduled to take her expertise and no-nonsense commentary to metro Atlanta audiences twice this month during addresses October 16 and October 28. It's no surprise that Hatchett has a lot to say about the juvenile justice system. She spoke to JJIE.org’s Chandra Thomas about an array of issues, including her concerns about Georgia’s system, why fighting truancy matters and the focus of her new book.
What do you consider the number one juvenile justice issue in Georgia?
Hands down it would be the lack of resources. I think there are lot of dedicated and wonderful professionals working in the area of juvenile justice, but the problem is that there are not enough resources in Georgia and throughout the country. There needs to be more resources allocated toward prevention as opposed to trying to rehabilitate kids once they’re already in the system. We need to look at what are the predictors and the indicators that contribute to kids getting into trouble. It’s not that we should flag certain kids, but if we know that certain factors are having an impact we can do a better job at reaching those children before there’s a problem. It’s better for us to use our resources in the area of prevention.
How do you suggest that get accomplished?
There should be more resources available for children after school. We know that a lot happens between the hours of 3-6 p.m. It is a major factor in delinquency. That’s when kids tend to get into the most trouble, after school. We also know that those hours of 3-6 p.m. are an issue with teen pregnancy. This has been studied extensively. The Department of Justice has compiled the statistics on this. If there was more after school care we know that it would have an impact on the number of kids getting in to trouble. We’ve got to figure this out. The state of Georgia spends more money incarcerating a kid than sending them to the University of Georgia. Something is wrong with that. There’s no quick fix to these problems. They need to be addressed on a state level but also through federal programs that are proven to work.
Some judges have raised concerns about the continued push toward zero tolerance and mandatory minimum policies? They argue that this takes away their discretion. What do you think?
I am absolutely opposed to anything that takes discretion away from judges. When you take away that discretion the process becomes automated, almost robotic. That’s counterproductive. Judges need to maintain discretion.
Georgia is one state that considers 17-year-olds adults. Do you think that’s the right age?
I’d like that moved up to 18, that’s my preference. We typically treat people as adults at 18. I think we need to protect kids through their high school years. I was one of the judges who was opposed to the governor’s (Zell Miller) move to automatically move children to adult court for certain crimes, the “Seven Deadly Sins” as they call it. I don’t think that should be automated. I feel strongly about that. We’re supposed to do what’s in the best interest of the child. Automatically moving a child to adult court is one of those things that inhibits the rehabilitation of a child.
You are speaking at the Truancy and Delinquency Prevention Training Conference in Marietta on October 28. How important is fighting truancy?
We need to ensure that kids are taken off the street and back into school. I feel that truancy is a forerunner to dropping out of school. Statistics show that students who dropout of school are three-and-a-half times more likely to have a criminal record. There is a connection there. There is a dropout crisis in America that needs to be addressed.
You have a new book out. What’s it about?
Dare to Take Charge is a dare to readers to live their lives on purpose. It challenges us to take charge of our lives and not to be victims of the past. I love the book. I am very excited about this book. The initial reviews have been really positive.
Any closing thoughts on the juvenile justice system?
We’ve got to work on getting more resources for prevention and intervention. That’s why the Truancy Intervention Project is so important. If we keep the kids in school, they’re more likely to stay out of trouble.
Click here for details on Hatchett’s upcoming metro Atlanta speaking engagements. __________________________
Got a juvenile justice story idea? Contact JJIE.org staff writer Chandra R. Thomas at email@example.com. Thomas, a former Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellow and Kiplinger Public Affairs Journalism Fellow, is an award-winning multimedia journalist who has worked for Atlanta, Essence and People magazines and Fox 5 News in Atlanta.