The first Georgia After School and Youth Development Conference is taking place in Athens, Ga. January 9 – 11. The event was organized by GUIDE, Gwinnet United in Drug Education, Inc., and supported by the state’s Department of Human Services, the Governor’s Office for Children and Families, and the Department of Education. I was fortunate to be able to attend part of the conference on Thursday, and to sit down with a few of the presenters. The focus of the conference, embodied in the theme “Together towards Tomorrow,” is a set of unified standards for after school and summer programs that will enable the government, providers, and grant makers to make decisions based on the latest evidence about what really works.
Our Constitution sets forth in the preamble that one of the goals of government is to “promote the general welfare.” This requires good policy decisions by our leaders that promote a strong economy. We are fortunate living in the land of the “free and the brave”—to exercise freedoms others only dream of. And many have money in their pockets to feed their family. Is it because we are one of the wealthiest nations in the world that we take economics for granted when it comes to criminal and juvenile justice issues?
The second season of “Beyond Scared Straight” begins Thursday night and with it come renewed questions about its effectiveness. The reality program follows at-risk teens as they are threatened, screamed at, and harassed by prison inmates in an attempt to get them to change their ways. The show was A&E Network’s most watched debut in its history with 3.7 million viewers. As JJIE reported at the time of the show’s debut in January, juvenile justice experts are concerned the show may be sending the wrong message. They point to studies that say scared straight-style programs are not only ineffective, but also counter-productive.
Buried in the Governor’s budget is a plan that is stirring up conflict among children’s advocates in Georgia, pitting supporters of two child welfare agencies against each other. The plan would fold the Georgia Family Connection Partnership, a 20-year old statewide public-private collaboration, and its budget of nearly $8 Million into the Governor’s Office for Children and Families (GOCF) effective July 1, 2011. Currently the Partnership is attached to the Department of Human Services. Officials of the GOCF say the change would save the state money and simplify access to information and services. Opponents of the move counter that it would undermine the Partnership’s commitment to community-based decision-making, jeopardize its private funding, and increase the size of state government.
It was 1999, I was recently appointed to the juvenile bench, and we had a new presiding judge. A meeting was called to discuss the direction of the court. Among several issues, we were concerned about the number of complaints filed by School Resource Officers (SRO) and decided to meet with the Chief of Police to discuss other alternatives to filing complaints. We were prepared for the meeting. We had data reflecting an increase in referrals by over 1,000 percent since the inception of the SRO program in the mid nineties. The data was broken down by offenses and most were misdemeanors primarily involving school fights, disorderly conduct, and disrupting public school.
Every month, an estimated three to five hundred girls are being sold for sex in Georgia, according to a new fact sheet from the Governor’s Office for Children and Families. The Office monitors the problem and reports that girls as young as 12 are serving 10-15 men per night and sometimes up to 45 a night during periods of high demand, including sporting events and conventions. The fact sheet, which is released four times a year, is based on research done by Shared Hope International, The Shapiro Group and Citizens Against Trafficking. Researchers say girls who’ve been exploited often keep silent out of fear of physical and psychological abuse from their trafficker/pimp. Many are tattooed, branded or scarred, a method used by pimps to mark ownership and control over emotionally vulnerable girls, Citizens Against Trafficking reports.
The Georgia Commission on Family Violence set up a governance committee Friday in the midst of ongoing questions about where in state government the agency belongs. In its 2010 session, the state legislature attached the 37-member commission’s budget to the Administrative Office of the Courts within the judicial branch, and there is strong support for having it remain there. But there are also those—reportedly including Gov. Sonny Perdue—who would like to see it come under the Governor’s Office for Children and Families in the executive branch. The possibility of moving the agency raises questions about its future, as JJIE.org reported Thursday. At the commission’s quarterly meeting, chairwoman Peggy Walker, a Douglas County juvenile court judge, asked members to volunteer for the new governance committee which will study the benefits and drawbacks to moving the agency, and look at how other states handle similar agencies. The committee will be headed by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Shawn LaGrua and will include Pardons and Paroles board member James Donald, Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Fox, majority whip Rep. Edward Lindsey (R-Atlanta), Henry County Solicitor General Charles Spanos and Robert Thornton, criminal services director of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, which includes representatives of several other agencies and councils.
The Georgia Commission on Family Violence has bounced among state agencies for the last 18 years – from Human Resources to the Administrative Office of the Courts to Corrections and back to the Courts. Now there are new questions about its future.
In the most recent change, the General Assembly voted late in the 2010 session to move the agency’s $428,000 budget from the Department of Corrections in the executive branch to the Administrative Office of the Courts in the judicial branch—but failed to amend the law to actually move the agency because time ran out. Corrections transferred management to the Courts by agreement. Now there’s discussion about moving the Commission again, this time to the Governor’s Office for Children and Families, an agency created by outgoing Governor Sonny Perdue two years ago. Supporters say services should be combined under one umbrella.
I was thirteen years old when I was called to the principal’s office. As I sat in the waiting area, I could hear two police officers from inside the office telling the principal they were going to arrest me. My stomach got weak and my eyes began to well up with tears. My world crashed all around me. At that moment I wished I could turn back the hands of time – I couldn’t.
When a writer comes along who touches your conscience, you want to tell people. So we are pleased to tell you that Judge Steven Teske of Clayton County Juvenile Court is now writing for the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange at JJIE.org. He is currently sharing stories from his childhood and his life that are filled with surprise and insight. His stories are sometimes funny, often poignant, and always make you think. In “The Good Shepherd,” we hear about the dare that almost got him arrested, and the middle school principal who saved his bacon. In “Making Adults Mad –When Did That Become a Crime?” he reveals what happened when he got his first BB gun for Christmas. In “The Silent Majority” he talks about the unsung heroes who help “crossover” kids.