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.

A Letter to My Friends

A colleague recently called to complain about the criticism heaped on him for his efforts to bring detention reform to his community. He has been called a lot of names and doesn’t know if he can continue to endure the emotional pain. It made me think of others doing this work and the same painful darts they’re enduring. So I will share with you what I shared in part with him. By now it should be no surprise that as judges go I am left-of-center.

Bad Mentoring Overheard While Waiting for the Elevator

Working in a juvenile court in metro Atlanta, I become a fly on the wall to some interesting conversations that take place among kids while they wait for appointments. Not long ago, while I was waiting for our reluctant elevator, I overheard a conversation that really caught my attention. Girl No. 1:  Smiling, “Hey, you know this is my second time in court … only my first time in this court though…”

Girl No. 2:  Eyes popping open wide, obviously impressed, “Really, aren’t you afraid you will have to go to the RYDC?” (Regional Youth Detention Center)

Girl No.

Cuts to Juvenile Justice System in Georgia Won’t Compromise Safety, Says Commissioner

Georgia’s juvenile justice system is eliminating jobs just as many other state agencies are, but Commissioner Gale Buckner of the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) promised Wednesday that none of the cuts will compromise the safety of youthful offenders. Directed by Gov. Nathan Deal to cut spending on current programs by 2 percent, the DJJ submitted a proposed 2013 budget that trims clerical and administrative positions, four teachers and two dozen staffers in a program offering intensive community-based programs supervision. But, Buckner told state House and Senate budgetwriters Wednesday, “no position that is safety- or security-related will be cut.” Buckner was responding to the concerns of state Rep. Quincy Murphy of Augusta, where a 19-year-old was fatally beaten two months ago in his cell at a youth development campus. A 17-year-old resident of the facility was charged with murder in the incident.

A Season to Imagine a Better World

Let’s face it — the practice of juvenile justice does not work for the most part. I applaud the efforts of those pushing our juvenile code rewrite here in Georgia, but will the changes produce drastic outcomes for delinquent youth?  Drastic outcomes require drastic changes — I mean controversial and blasphemous changes! To achieve drastic outcomes, we have to change the starting place. We already know — or should know — what to do with delinquent youth. The question is where do we do what with them?  Despite the significant progress to develop effective community-based programs such as cognitive behavioral training, Multi-Systemic Therapy (MST), and Functional Family Therapy (FFT), they become insignificant if the costs to support them are dedicated to the brick and mortar to house youth.