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Georgia residents with a family member in the juvenile justice system may worry about the long-term outlook for that young person.

The Center for Juvenile Justice Reform and Council of State Governments Justice Center propose strategies to reform the juvenile justice system to improve youth outcomes.

Proposals for reform

Researchers recommend that the justice system adopt a data-based decision-making process to reduce recidivism and recognize that not all youth offenders threaten public safety. These researchers developed six strategies for reforming the juvenile justice system:

  • Decriminalize “status offenses” that violate laws simply because a juvenile committed the act. Divert youth who commit status or non-violent offenses away from the court system toward community-based services that support their health and education.
  • Implement supervision conditions that relate specifically to the offense, and stop penalizing technical parole and probation violations.
  • Concentrate on services and partnerships that connect youth to positive adults, peers and community supports.
  • Support and train attorneys and judges willing to dedicate themselves to serve the juvenile system over a longer period of time.
  • Change the focus of community supervision to promote positive changes in behavior.
  • Use data to inform decision-making and match youth offenders with appropriate services. Hold the system accountable for better youth outcomes.

What the state is doing

The Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice reports that the state’s Division of Community Services oversaw intake, case management, probation, detention and other care and supervisory services for over 10,600 juveniles in fiscal year 2019.

The state’s attempt at juvenile justice reform includes a focus on working with juvenile court judges to allow young people at a low risk of recidivism to receive education and mental health services in place of detention. Community service providers help juveniles complete their high school diploma, GED certificate or technical certification. Juveniles also have the opportunity to participate in job readiness fairs, athletics and art competitions.