The Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians recently released a report claiming that the state could save an estimated $88 million by reducing the number of young people held in secure facilities over the next five years. The authors of the report recommend decreasing the state’s total out-of-home adjudicated population by more than a quarter by 2018, stating that the measure would allow “significant opportunities for savings and reallocation of resources.”
The report states that status offenders should not be subjected to either short-term or long-term detention, while young people accused of misdemeanors would be better served by diversions to community-based programs. Combined, status offenders and youth found guilty of misdemeanors represented more than a quarter of Georgia’s juvenile lock-up population in 2011. Currently, almost 30 crimes are considered “designated felonies” in the state of Georgia, including several property offenses, such as smash and grab burglaries. Last year, however, almost two-fifths of the designated felons in the state’s youth developmental campuses (YDC) were assessed as “low-risk,” while approximately 40 percent of young people in Georgia YDCs in 2011 were detained for committing non-violent offenses. The report suggest revising the state’s Designated Felony Act (DFA) to establish a two-class system that “continues to allow for restrictive custody in all designated felony (DF) cases while adjusting the dispositional sanctions to take into account both offense severity and risk level.”
Prior to entering state custody, the council suggests that young people be assessed for their likelihood of committing future crimes and given mental health screenings.