Juvenile Justice

David Goldman / AP Photo

Georgia lawmakers are considering a criminal justice reform package that includes changes to school disciplinary procedures.

Child advocates say current policies push too many kids out of school into the juvenile justice system for nonviolent offenses and disproportionately affect students of color.

Penn State / flickr.com/pennstatelive

When a student gets into trouble, faces suspension or expulsion in school, the student and parent may not be aware of their rights or may not be able to afford legal representation.

Attorney Jessica Stuart, lawyer for Georgia Legal Services, discussed on “A Closer Look,” what her firm offers to students and why parents need legal help for their children.

In this Friday, Dec. 7, 2012 photo, the shadow of a Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice correctional officer is cast as he leaves a training facility.
David Goldman / AP Photo

When children misbehave some parents have resorted to calling the police for help in teaching their son or daughter important lessons.

A mother from Columbus, Georgia, posted pictures last week of her 10-year-old son weeping in the back of a police car and wearing handcuffs after she called police for help. She told reporters that her son had been acting up at school.

Dr. Karen Baynes-Dunning, a former juvenile justice judge in Georgia and Alabama, has been following the case.

Penn State / flickr.com/pennstatelive

The Southern Center for Human Rights said a settlement agreement reached this week will improve legal representation for poor children and adults in a south Georgia judicial circuit.

The center filed a lawsuit in last year against the Cordele Judicial Circuit. Atteeyah Hollie, an attorney who worked on the case, said, at Cordele often a person who’d been arrested would apply for lawyer and nothing would happen.

Juvenile Law Center

Say you were convicted of shoplifting a couple of times when you were 13. Fifty years later, you would hope that wouldn’t still be on your record.

But in some states, like Georgia, it probably is. And anyone can access it.

"Everyone assumes that these records are confidential and I think that’s because the public also wants them to be confidential,” says Lourdes Rosado with the Juvenile Law Center. 

Rosado says most states – including Georgia – are doing a poor job.

Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice
Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice

Juvenile justice education programs may be doing more harm than good according to a new study by the Atlanta-based Southern Education Foundation.

Through a compilation of federal data, the report concludes incarcerated youths often receive an education worse than they would outside the juvenile justice system, and one that’s more expensive.

Wednesday is the start of a new year and that means some new state laws will take effect. 

A new ethics law will restrict the amount of money lobbyists can spend on public officials. Although lobbyists will only be able to spend $75 at a time, they will be allowed to make multiple expenditures. Gov. Nathan Deal praised the legislation when he signed it in May.

Some Georgia prisoners serving life sentences without parole will be re-sentenced after a recent state Supreme Court ruling invalidated the terms under which those inmates were punished.

Those who qualify for resentencing would have been sentenced before they turned 18 and faced the death penalty. Stephen Reba, an attorney with Emory University’s Barton Child Law and Policy Center, says the majority of those who will see new sentences would be about 30 years old today.

State Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver (D-Decatur)
Ga. General Assembly

    On Monday, October 28, 2013, Georgia Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery Niles announced the state will not renew the contract with Youth Services International to manage the Paulding County Regional Youth Detention Center, and the facility will close at the end of the year.

Michelle Wirth/WABE News

A Gwinnett County judge is critical of juvenile justice reform passed by the Georgia legislature this year and championed by Governor Nathan Deal. Even though the reform is supposed to save the state money, Gwinnett’s chief juvenile court judge says it places an undue financial burden on Georgia counties.

Jim Shuler

  In June 2013, a U.S. Justice Department survey found Georgia had one of the nation's highest percentages of young offenders who said they had also become victims of abuse -- including sexual abuse -- in Georgia's juvenile detention facilities.

 A subsequent probe by the state Department of Juvenile Justice found a backlog of hundreds of cases in which the investigations of the complaints remained incomplete for longer than the maximum 45 days.

All of this raised questions for Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery Niles, who had taken office in November.  

Jim Shuler

In June 2013, a U.S. Justice Department survey found Georgia had one of the nation's highest percentages of young offenders who said they had also become victims of abuse -- including sexual abuse -- in Georgia's juvenile detention facilities.

 A subsequent probe by the state Department of Juvenile Justice found a backlog of hundreds of cases in which the investigations of the complaints remained incomplete for longer than the maximum 45 days.

All of this raised questions for Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery Niles, who had taken office in November.  

Michelle Wirth/WABE News

Georgia’s Juvenile Justice Commissioner and other top Department of Juvenile Justice officials spoke out for the first time Thursday since the completion of an internal investigation.

The investigation found a backlog of 700 open cases, 141 of which had some type of sex abuse or harassment allegations. Three of those cases have been substantiated and another dozen are under investigation.

The investigation followed a federal survey where Georgia had one of the highest percentages of juveniles self-reporting they were sexually victimized in state detention facilities.

Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice

Advocates are reacting to the completion of a month-long internal investigation into a number of open sex abuse allegation cases in Georgia’s juvenile detention centers. The investigation found 700 cases of unresolved cases. 141 of those cases meet the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice’s definition of sex abuse and harassment. The investigation came after a federal survey which showed Georgia had one of the highest percentages of offenders who reported being sexually victimized.

Georgia General Assembly

  Last week, Georgia Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery Miles ordered a review by a state advisory committee, after a new Federal survey found Georgia had one of the nation's highest rates of sexual victimization of young people in state juvenile detention centers.

Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice

Georgia’s Juvenile Justice Commissioner announced Friday he’s ordering a review by a state advisory committee after a recent federal survey.  According to survey, Georgia’s juvenile detention centers are among the worst in the U.S. for the percentage of offenders self-reporting they were sexually victimized by staff and others.

Juvenile Justice Overhaul Signed Into Law

May 2, 2013
Nathan Deal signs juvenile justice reform bill
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.

Gov. Deal Wants New Focus on Inmate Rehabilitation

May 1, 2013
Ken Mayer via Flickr

Over the last two years, Gov. Nathan Deal has pushed legislation aimed at getting nonviolent criminals out of prisons and youth detention centers.   

Now he’s turning his focus to helping former inmates re-enter the workforce.

Gov. Nathan Deal at Atlanta Press Club
Office of the Governor

Speaking before the Atlanta Press Club in downtown Atlanta, Governor Nathan Deal discussed some of the major accomplishments of the past legislative session, including a bill aimed at reducing the influence of special interests at the Capitol.

Deal admitted the ethics bill is flawed, but said it represents progress.

“Even though that [the ethics bill] does not do everything that everybody wants, I think it is a significant step in the right direction.”

Denis O'Hayer/WABE News

  The Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court urged Georgia lawmakers to move ahead with a major overhaul of the system for treating and punishing young offenders.

In her annual State of the Judiciary address at the State Capitol on Thursday, February 7th, Chief Justice Carol Hunstein said Georgia’s current get-tough approach to young offenders is expensive and ineffective.  And she said most kids in trouble have not committed violent crimes.

Push to Divert Youth Offenders from Detention Centers

Jan 23, 2013

Last year, Governor Nathan Deal led a broad effort to reduce the state's adult prison population. This year, Deal is seeking a similar overhaul of the juvenile system.

No legislation has been proposed yet, but ongoing budget hearings at the Capitol give some insight into what a reform package may look like.

Before state lawmakers Tuesday, Deal  requested $5 million for a new pilot program aimed at diverting low-risk offenders from detention centers to counseling programs and alternative treatment centers.