We’re asking lawmakers to weigh in on issues affecting children and the juvenile justice system in Georgia. In this installment of the JJIE.org interview series, State Senator Jack Hill (R-Reidsville) weighs in on the new Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) commissioner and how the cash-strapped agency may effectively cut costs.
Senator Jack Hill
- Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee
- Former Chairman of K-12 Education, Ethics and Higher Education Committees.
JJIE: What do you consider to be some of the main pressing issues facing juvenile justice in Georgia?
J.H.: I know that the budget cutbacks are a setback, but I’ve been impressed with [DJJ’s] plans for efficient delivery of services. I’ve been especially impressed with Commissioner Amy Howell’s work. I believe that she has a good plan in place and I have great confidence in her. Their budget has been cut 20 percent over the last two years; so that is certainly a challenge having to close some of the RYDCs (Regional Youth Detention Centers).
JJIE: In light of those cuts, what ideas or suggestions do you have for DJJ moving forward?
J.H.: I’m interested in taking a look at some of the facilities that have been built to house the juveniles in one of the counties before and after their trial. I may want to look at shifting some of that cost to local government. There are some proposals that I’ve been made aware of, but I’d like to see what the House and Senate committees recommend before I get in to that. Like I said, so far I have been very impressed with Commissioner Howell and her ability to plan efficient delivery of service.
JJIE: Do you have any other suggestions?
J.H.: I’d like to see RYDCs operate more efficiently and for us to use more outdoor facilities like Savannah River [Challenge Program in Screven County]. It’s a very efficient facility for its size. We’ve come a long way in Georgia in regards to juvenile justice since fulfilling the MOA (Memorandum of Agreement) requirements with the Department of Justice. I’m very interested in working with Commissioner Howell. I try to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s going in that arena, having an RYDC in my district (Claxton). Adam Kennedy is over that one. I have great confidence in his administrative abilities. Daniel Schulman is a family friend. He’s retiring from his position as a regional DJJ administrator soon, but through him I try to keep up with what’s going on.