Juvenile Justice Overhaul Signed Into Law

May 2, 2013

Gov. Nathan Deal signing juvenile justice reform bill in Dalton today.
Credit Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice

To keep kids out of detention centers and help cut down on costs, Governor Nathan Deal today signed into law an overhaul of the juvenile justice system.

The measure allows judges far greater flexibility to steer kids into community-based help, rather than incarceration. It also includes millions for a pilot program aimed at bolstering local counseling programs.

Eric John, director of the Council of Juvenile Court Judges of Georgia, applauded the reform package.

“Studies show putting kids back into the community is a lot better than sending them to a place where they may not get the rehabilitative efforts that they would in the community.”

Beginning in the 1990s, Georgia’s juvenile code took a hard line with youth offenders, favoring what John referred to as the "boot camp" approach. Now he says courts will be expected to partner with local nonprofits like the United Way and the Boys and Girls Club to help youth offenders stay out of trouble.

For the governor, it caps a two-year legislative effort with the goal of dramatically reducing the number of nonviolent criminals in prisons and youth detention centers.