Putting a Face on Reform

In his 1961 farewell address President Dwight Eisenhower warned the American people of the dangers inherent in an alliance of the military, arms makers and politicians. “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex” The term has since become common parlance, and his warning, while not unheeded, has done little to stop the continuing accumulation of power into a few hands. It’s such an effective description that it has been adopted by people interested in a range of issues. We can see medical, nonprofit, educational and even wedding industrial complexes referred by those opposed to the way things are done in the respective sectors. The comparison I am most familiar with is the prison industrial complex.

Georgia DJJ Audit of YDC Found Numerous Violations Months Before Detainee Escape

In October, five young detainees escaped from Georgia’s Augusta Youth Development Campus (YDC). Just a few days later, the facility’s then-Director, Ronald Brawner, resigned. An internal audit released last month by the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) indicates that the facility had numerous departmental policy violations prior to the escape, with an interview conducted earlier in the year revealing that Brawner’s staff failed to maintain proper documentation or develop an emergency plan for the YDC, according to The Augusta Chronicle. Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery Niles stated last month that the DJJ told administrators and personnel at the YDC to improve facility safety and make departmental improvements. A late-August DJJ evaluation verified that the facility did not have cooperative agreements in place with emergency officials, such as local police.  Additionally, an auditor determined the YDC was both constructed unsafely and staffed by an “excessive” number of uncertified security personnel.

Oregon Walks to Get Teens out of Adult Court

In what organizers say is the first event of its kind in the Pacific northwest, Oregon juvenile justice advocates will hold a 5K run/walk this month to publicize a campaign to channel the state’s 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds toward juvenile court. “In 2009, my 15-year-old was convicted as an adult,” said April Rains, a board member of the Partnership for Safety and Justice, a nonprofit group that aims to make Oregon’s approach to public safety more effective and just. “I knew that he needed to be held accountable for what he did,” said Rains, a one-time victim advocate. But, “what was shocking was how little support I got for my son and my family. He was a good kid, was involved with church, loved learning, loved taking care of animals.

Abandoned Atlanta: Teens Portray the Forgotten, the Unheard of, and the Remnants of a Complicated City

The sight of decrepit, abandoned buildings can evoke many different reactions. They can inspire or disgust, educate or anger, thrill or frighten. Abandoned buildings serve as a reminder of our history—as well as our disappointments—and the art created of them can paint a vivid picture of urban decay. Being the oddball out of capital cities, Atlanta was not built on a major body of water. Instead, it grew as a central railroad hub of ill repute.  It was a city of prostitution, gambling, and violence for a long time.

Georgia at Work on Juvenile Justice Reforms for Next Year

With technical assistance from the Pew Center on the States, a Georgia blue ribbon panel is studying the state’s juvenile criminal justice system, charged by the governor with recommending policy changes. “We’re not at the point of drafting anything yet. We’re still assimilating and gathering data, system driver data,” said state Court of Appeals Judge Mike Boggs, co-chair of the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform. The 21-member council of mainly judges and attorneys was renewed by Governor Nathan Deal earlier this year to study and recommend policy for both the adult and juvenile justice systems.

Boggs was speaking at the end of the latest in a series of juvenile justice presentations by the Pew Center on the States, this time focusing on recidivism. Pew says its data suggests the best programs to fight recidivism find and focus on the most at-risk kids.

VIDEO: A Former Georgia State Child Advocate Explains His Work Helping Kids in Guatemala

The Georgia Juvenile Services Association (GJSA) recently wrapped its 2012 Training Summit in Savannah, Ga., an annual chance for juvenile court workers from across the state to share knowledge, network and blow off steam away from the daily pressures and demands of their often stressful work. GJSA members include employees at all levels of the state’s Department of Juvenile Justice, juvenile courts, county departments of family and children services and other organizations dedicated to helping children. Giving the keynote address Aug. 22 was Georgia’s former Child Advocate, Tom Rawlings, who spoke about lessons he has learned from his current job as Director of International Justice Mission’s Guatemala field office. There, Rawlings manages “a multidisciplinary team of attorneys, investigators, social works and psychiatrists which essentially acts as a combination district attorney’s office and child advocacy center,” he said.

Study Re-Starts on Juvenile Justice Overhaul for Georgia

After more than five years of drafting, a comprehensive juvenile justice reform bill is expected to appear in the Georgia General Assembly in January, which would give children in the court system access to updated intervention and rehabilitation. A juvenile justice subcommittee will be formed soon out of the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform, a blue-ribbon panel appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal to study adult and child justice codes.  The full committee held its first meeting July16, where it heard a background briefing from the Pew Center on the States about juvenile justice in other states. The subcommittee will build on at least five years of work that ended in House Bill 641, a bill that died in the legislature in March. “We hope to find things to make improvements to the current 641,” said bill author state Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs). When it died in March, the 246-page bill brought the state’s juvenile justice code up to date with best practices about how to treat juveniles in the court system, whether as defendants, abuse victims or both.  It also created a category of juveniles called “children in need of services,” who do things considered unruly, but not quite criminal, such as skipping school, running away from home, or breaking curfew.

Beyond the Horrible, the Reality of Sexual Assault in Youth Detention

 I was 18 years old when I was arrested and sent to jail. But the real hell of my life to come started on my 19th birthday, when the state shipped me off to a place called Alto, a notorious youth prison in north Georgia. There was much to fear in this place, but nothing quite frightening as much as the likelihood of sexual assault.

I knew from talking to older guys in jail, before I was sent off to Alto, that rapes were common, but nothing they told me prepared me for the reality of what I witnessed. The place (it has since been shuttered) had been built in the 1930s as a hospital. Fifty years later, it was a dilapidated house of horrors.