Georgia Legislature Passes Some Juvenile-Related Bills, Kills Others in Final Days of Session

Georgia legislators found the money this year to tighten security and respond quickly to emergencies at the state’s juvenile detention centers. They also declared cellphones and other telecommunications devices in juvenile prisons to be contraband. But they couldn’t find the money to pass juvenile justice reform, because Gov. Nathan Deal and others said they weren’t sure how much it would cost. So the five-year effort to overhaul Georgia’s aging juvenile code will become a six-year campaign when the Legislature reconvenes in 2013. At the 11th hour, though, one provision of the proposed code rewrite was tacked onto the contraband bill and passed Thursday by both chambers.

Juvenile Code Overhaul in Georgia Could be Doomed Without Proper Funding

A proposed overhaul of juvenile justice laws could revolutionize the way Georgia treats abused and delinquent children, local officials told a state legislative panel Thursday. But, they cautioned, the reforms are doomed to failure without proper funding. The state House Judiciary Committee on Thursday unanimously approved a 243-page rewrite of the state’s juvenile code, but only after hearing dire warnings from prosecutors and a defense lawyer about the consequences of underfunding. The bill, among many other provisions, would require that local district attorneys prosecute cases in juvenile courts. It does not state, however, who would pay the bill.

Funding Cuts to Juvenile Justice System in Georgia could be Restored to Levels Closer to those of 2009

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed 2013 budget for juvenile justice, after three years of deep cuts, could bring spending a bit nearer to 2009 levels, state officials say. Deal’s spending priorities, though, reflect a harsh trend inside Georgia’s youth prisons. They house a much different population — older, more violent and much more difficult to manage — than they did just a few years ago. “We certainly find them more volatile and more physically demanding,” said Jeff Minor, Georgia’s deputy juvenile justice commissioner. The trend was underscored last year when disturbances at youth detention facilities in DeKalb and Dodge counties could only be quelled with the aid of state and local police.

It’s Official: Key Juvenile Focused Bills Now Law in Georgia

Some key juvenile justice-related bills passed in Georgia’s 2011 legislative session are now law. The juvenile “Good Behavior Bill” the Runaway Youth Safety Act and the Human Trafficking Bill officially went into effect July 1st. HB 373, known as the “Good Behavior Bill,” gives children who achieve 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. The measure, backed by the Council of Juvenile Court Judges, also gives juvenile court judges more discretion. Key provisions in the law include:

Allows judges to review the sentences of designated felons who have served part of their terms for consideration for early release.