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Improving the Juvenile Justice System

December 28, 2012
A young man crouches, his head in his hands, his wrists cuffed.

Last year, the Georgia General Assembly unanimously passed HB 1176, a bill that tackles the rising costs in the state's adult justice system. Furthering that effort, the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians last week released its recommendations for saving money and reducing the number of repeat offenders within the juvenile justice system.

Taxpayers support youth offenders at Youth Development Campuses at a price tag of $91,126 per bed per year and still more at the Regional Youth Detention Centers at a cost of $88,155 per bed per year, the council reports. Despite the state's investment in education and treatment at these facilities, however, more than half of the youth placed at the campuses and centers commit another offense within three years.

"These rates of recidivism are unacceptable, especially given the high costs to taxpayers," the report asserts.

To curb rising costs and encourage youth offenders to better habits, the council suggested the state place low-risk offenders back in their communities and use the savings to support community-based rehabilitation programs, which often prove less expensive and more effective than out-of-home programs do.

The council also proposed that the Department of Juvenile Justice update its approach to assessing offender risk, develop a reliable tool to determine if offenders should be placed out-of-home and work with the Governor's Office for Children and Families to standardize how communities report juvenile crime data.

To learn more about the juvenile justice system and proposed improvements, read the council's full report.