Did Georgia Meet Sex Offender Registry Deadline? Thousands of Federal Dollars Could Be At Stake

It remains a mystery whether Georgia met a critical deadline this week to comply with a federal ruling known as the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006. “We can’t say for sure at this point, we have packets arriving in droves,” said United States Department of Justice (DOJ) Spokeswoman Kara McCarthy. “It may take up to three months for us to go through all of the packets we have received.”

Wednesday was the deadline for the peach state and more than 30 others to implement the federal mandate that requires states to establish a sex offender registry for adults and juveniles that connects with a national registry. “To date, 14 states, nine tribes and one territory have substantially implemented Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) requirements,” said Linda Baldwin, Director of DOJ’s Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART) Office, which administers SORNA. “We are reviewing as quickly as possible the materials submitted.”

DOJ has confirmed that Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming have substantially implemented SORNA, along with nine native American tribes and the U.S. territory of Guam.

Former DJJ Commissioner Hunt Named Head of National Prison Ministry



Former Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Garland Hunt has a new gig. Two weeks ago he was named president of Prison Fellowship, a 35-year-old Landsdowne, Virginia-based non-profit that touts itself as the largest prison ministry for adult inmates in this country. The organization has a presence in 50 states and an international arm in more than 120 countries. Nothing much had been heard from Hunt, a lawyer, ordained minister and corrections industry veteran, since late last year when then Georgia Gov.-Elect Nathan Deal abruptly replaced him in the post after only seven months on the job. Hunt recently spoke to JJIE.org’s Chandra Thomas about his new position and his reflections on his days at the helm of the state agency charged with monitoring and caring for some 20,000 youngsters.

New Year, New Leadership: First Woman DJJ Commissioner Amy Howell Speaks

Governor-Elect Nathan Deal took office Monday in Georgia. In a surprise move just before the winter holidays, he tapped Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Deputy Commissioner Amy Howell to replace Garland Hunt as commissioner.  Howell is an alumna of Emory University’s Barton Child Law and Policy Clinic and a past president of the Young Lawyer’s  Division of the State Bar of Georgia. In her first formal interview late last week, she talked to JJIE.org’s Chandra Thomas about her plans at the helm of an agency facing more severe budget cuts in the coming year. Your appointment was a surprise to many in juvenile justice circles, was that the case for you too? I didn’t directly seek the appointment, but I have always made it known as the former president of the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar of Georgia that I am open to new challenges.  I was really surprised because I have not been working with the agency for 30-plus years.

Doing More with Less: What DJJ Budget Cuts Really Mean for Children

As Georgia faces its greatest budget crisis since the Great Depression, the state Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) has been forced to make drastic budget cuts.  The last three years have seen a reduction of more than 20% in state funding.  And future cuts of up to 10% for FY 2012 are possible. Jeff Minor, long time DJJ Chief Financial Officer, explains these losses in stark terms:

In FY 2009, DJJ’s base budget totaled nearly $343 million.  By 2011, the budget was down to $266 million. The FY 2012 budget faces further cuts, from $15.4 million in a best case scenario to $25.7 million in a worst case scenario. Over a three year period, the cuts could total nearly 30%. In addition, says Minor, the agency lost more than $80 million in one-time budget cuts, largely absorbed through staff furloughs and hiring freezes.

Outgoing DJJ Commissioner Garland Hunt Reflects On His Brief, But Busy Term

The man who Governor Sonny Perdue tapped seven months ago to serve as Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner is leaving his post after only seven months on the job. Garland Hunt officially departs this week following Governor-Elect Nathan Deal’s decision last month to name DJJ Deputy Commissioner Amy Howell in his place.  Hunt is a lawyer, an ordained minister and co-pastor of the Father’s House church in Norcross, and a corrections industry veteran.  He spoke to JJIE.org’s Chandra R. Thomas about his brief tenure overseeing a state agency with some 4,300 employees who are charged with monitoring and caring for some 20,000 youngsters. Many people were surprised to see you replaced after such a short time in the position. How do you feel about the decision? As I stated in the letter I sent to the staff, I certainly regret not being appointed to the position but I respect the governor-to-be’s appointment.

Letter from Juvenile Justice Commissioner Garland Hunt

Commissioner Garland Hunt sent a heartfelt letter to his DJJ staff on Thursday.  The letter comes in the wake of news that he will not be reappointed to the post.  Governor-elect Nathan Deal has nominated Deputy Commissioner Amy Howell, who will be the first woman ever to run the Juvenile Justice agency. Hunt‘s letter, addressed to the “DJJ Family”, praises their work and resonates with sadness.  Here’s how it starts:
It is with much regret that I must inform you of the Deal Administration’s decision to not reappoint me as the Commissioner. In a very short time, I developed a sincere love for all of the young people that have been entrusted in DJJ’s care. I quickly realized that we must encourage and believe in them.  Our success as an agency is determined by their success in life. I would encourage you to always keep hope in your hearts for a change in their lives.

Judge Warns Budget Cuts “Will Have a Crippling Effect on Juvenile Justice in Georgia.”

Many people charged with carrying out juvenile justice in Georgia are concerned about how new state budget cuts will affect children, communities, and the system overall. “I just fear that there’s going to be less policing done on juvenile behavior,” says Early County Sheriff Jimmy Murkerson, of Governor Sonny Perdue’s recent order that the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) and other state agencies amend their 2011 budget proposals with plans for four, six and eight percent cuts. “The general public seems to feel that [law enforcement] should be handling every offense from sagging pants to curfew violations, but you’ve got to have the manpower to address these minor issues. With these cuts that manpower just won’t be there.”

Gwinnett County Juvenile Judge Stephen Franzen echoes a similar sentiment. “Our ability to respond to the needs of kids and the community is going to be severely damaged,” he says.

Juvenile Justice Forum Encourages Agency Collaboration

It was a chance meeting, but highly impactful. Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Commissioner Garland Hunt struck up what he expected to be a casual conversation on an elevator Tuesday. It turns out the man alongside him worked as a prosecutor in the state and had a lot to say to the newly appointed DJJ chief. “He told me that ‘I know you all want to help out the (incarcerated) kids, but I get to see the victims every day,” says Hunt, who took his post in May. “Don’t forget the victims too.’ I think it was great for me to have that conversation; to be reminded of that fact and to keep that in the forefront of my mind as I make decisions every day.”

Such dialogue – and more importantly creating an opportunity for representatives from various agencies across the state to communicate and collaborate formally and informally – was at the heart of a Juvenile Justice Forum held this week at the Lake Lanier Islands Resort in Buford.

New DJJ Chief Believes in Power of Law and Prayer

Garland Hunt plans to rely on the Good Book as much as his law books for guidance in his goal of keeping thousands of juveniles who’ve run afoul of the law from graduating into Georgia’s criminal justice system for adults. Instead, Hunt, the new commissioner of theGeorgia Department of Juvenile Justice, is determined to see as many of them as possible graduate from the DJJ’s school system, with either high school diplomas or GED certificates.