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.

Photo credit: Clay Duda/JJIE.org

‘Evening Reporting Center’ Keeps Kids Out of Trouble During Peak Crime Hours, Administrators Say

Two years ago Eric Claros, 17, was barreling headfirst on a path of self-destruction. When he wasn’t skipping school or getting high smoking marijuana, he was breaking into homes with his friends just for the heck of it. He eventually got arrested and spent some days in a local detention center outside of Atlanta. After his release, a probation violation eventually landed him in a program in Clayton County, a suburban community just south of the city. The Evening Reporting Center (ERC) is a juvenile court run alternative to incarceration program.

It’s Official: Governor Deal Signs Juvenile ‘Good Behavior Bill’ Into Law

Lorena Padron, 18, and Maria Calderon, 19, were all smiles this afternoon as they flanked Governor Nathan Deal in his office. With a stroke of a pen, the governor signed HB 373 into law, giving both of them and thousands of others with a track record of good behavior and academic success in Georgia’s Regional Youth Detention Centers (RYDCs) and Youth Development Centers (YDCs)  a chance to substantially reduce their time in custody. Known as the “Good Behavior bill,” the measure passed in the 2011 legislative session that ended last month also gives juvenile court judges more discretion. “I feel very good, I’m very happy,” said Padron, after the signing ceremony at the state capitol. “I feel like I can begin my life again, like I’ll be able to go home and help my family.

Mural Program Brings Focus, Hope To Incarcerated Teens

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When Maya Keating is in the gymnasium on the Macon Youth Development Center (YDC) campus in Macon, Ga., she always tries her best to keep wayward balls from crashing into the colorful mural emblazoned across a large wall. She hopes to keep the display -– a vibrant array of red, blue, yellow and green acrylic paint -– unscathed for as long as possible. No chipping, is her objective, thank you very much. “I’m always telling people, ‘watch where you kick the ball,’” quipped Keating, 19. “I don’t want it to get messed up.

Crossover Day Is Here: The Latest On Juvenile Justice, Child Focused Legislation

Today is Crossover Day — the critical mid-point in the legislative session, when Senate bills move over to the House and House bills transition to the Senate. Any House bills that have not passed their chamber of origin will not progress in 2011. Because this is the first year of the  two-year legislative cycle, any bills that fail to cross over may still be considered in 2012. Here’s an update on some of the legislation pertaining to young people in Georgia and juvenile justice issues that JJIE.org has been following. Senate Bills

SB 31 would expand attorney-client privilege to cover parents’ participation in private conversations with defense attorneys representing their children in delinquent or criminal cases. The bill introduced in January by Sen. Jason Carter (D-Decatur) gives the child – not the parent – exclusive rights to waive the privilege. This measure passed the Senate on February 23 and now awaits consideration by the House Civil Judiciary Committee. Introduced last month by Sen. Joshua McKoon (R-Columbus), SB 80 would require any person, including a juvenile arrested for a felony offense, to give a DNA sample.  It would be analyzed and kept in a database by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Juvenile ‘Good Behavior’ Bill Clears Ga. House, Heads To Senate

The Georgia House of Representatives has approved a measure dubbed the “good behavior bill,” that pushes for more discretion among juvenile court judges. The 169 to 1 vote came just in time to meet this week’s critical legislative “crossover day” deadline. “I am so pleased with the passage of House Bill 373 and grateful to B.J. Pak, Jay Neal, Wendell Willard, Stacey Abrams, Yasmin Neal and all of the representatives who voted in support of the bill,” said Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) Commissioner Amy Howell. “It is great that our leadership understood the opportunity this bill presents for DJJ, our youth and Georgia. I am looking forward to working with the Senate.”

Uphill Battle Likely For Juvenile Parole Board Legislation Sponsor

Now that a bill allowing for more discretion among juvenile court judges has been filed with the Georgia House of Representatives, it may be an uphill battle for the sponsor of another bill pushing for the creation of a juvenile parole board. Nearly two weeks ago Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur), a Georgia Legislative Black Caucus member, introduced Senate Bill 105, which would establish a three-person juvenile parole panel within the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). “With limited financial resources and the severe overcrowding in our jails, we must begin looking at alternatives to incarceration,” said Sen. Jones of the measure, now awaiting review by the Senate Judiciary Committee. “This bill is aimed at juvenile offenders who have committed only designated felonies.”

The main challenge ahead for Sen. Jones may be the fact that another measure dubbed the “good behavior bill” pushing for more discretion among juvenile court judges was also filed late last week. House Bill 373, which has been formally endorsed by DJJ and the Council of Juvenile Court Judges, would allow judges to review the sentences of designated felons who have accomplished the terms of his or her sentence for consideration for early release. The measure, sponsored by Rep. B.J Pak (R-Lilburn), has been endorsed by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) and House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D-DeKalb)

Both bills were introduced on the heels of Governor Nathan Deal’s recent announcement of plans to assemble a new bi-partisan council to study criminal justice reforms and make recommendations to a joint legislative committee by next January.

Joint Appropriations Committee Hears From New DJJ Commissioner

The harsh realities of the new year’s budget woes continue to sink in for Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) brass. Newly appointed Commissioner Amy Howell has formally presented her concerns and suggestions about the agency’s inevitable revenue slashes to members of the House and Senate appropriations committee. In a 20-minute budget hearings presentation Wednesday Howell, a former DJJ deputy commissioner, outlined the agency’s structure, highlighted challenges that further budgets cuts could impose and emphasized the critical role that legislative support would play in helping the agency continue to fulfill its mission. In his first state-of the-state address last week, new Governor Nathan Deal proposed cutting all agency budgets by four percent on average during the rest of the fiscal year ending in June and another seven percent during fiscal 2012. “We’re very cognizant of the incredible difficult economic times that the state is facing and we know that these difficulties are across the board for all agencies,” says DJJ spokeswoman Scheree Moore.

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.

Not Your Average Schoolhouse: Inside Ga.’s Largest Detention Center

In many ways it looks like a typical school building – the non-descript tan brick exterior, the packed parking lot and the flagpole with the American and Georgia state flags thrashing in the wind out front. The majestic arched fence topped by a mass of coiled barbed wire is the first tipoff.  And the fact that you have to step inside and a guard must view you on a surveillance camera, before buzzing you into the fenced-in walkway confirms it. Clearly this isn’t your average schoolhouse. Welcome to the Metro Atlanta Regional Youth Detention Center, a 200-bed facility (maximum capacity of 150 boys and 50 girls) where Georgia youth who are in trouble with the law live and learn while they navigate the criminal justice system.  On this day, the population is down, 132 students are onsite.