Juvenile Justice Reforms in Georgia

The Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2013 triggered some much-needed improvements for the futures of juvenile offenders, in addition to generating significant savings for Georgia taxpayers.

Under the new act, only the most serious and violent young offenders will be held in custody.  Those minors that have not committed serious and violent crimes should be sent into specialized community-based programs aimed at managing the offenders’ core problems.  These core problems range from dysfunctional families, anger issues, and underdeveloped life skills, to substance abuse.

These major changes in the law are also expected to reduce both the incarceration costs as well as the probability of the offender reoffending.  The estimated cost of incarcerating one juvenile offender is $90,000 per year, while the price to contain a juvenile offender in a residential placement is only $29,000 per year.  It’s only $3,000 a year to provide community supervision of a child at home.

To improve community-based programs, the state of Georgia has allocated $5 million in state funds, plus an additional $1 million in federal grant funds, to fund more of these community-based programs for juvenile offenders.  This innovative approach, referred to as Juvenile Reinvestment, has already received funds in more than 44 Georgia counties.

Juvenile Court

The juvenile court has jurisdiction over children under 17 years of age who are said to have committed a delinquent act or status offense.  A delinquent act is defined as one that would be a crime if committed by an adult.  In contrast, a status offense constitutes an act that would not be a crime if committed by an adult.  Examples of status offenses include ungovernable behavior, acting as a runaway, and being truant.  The juvenile court also has jurisdiction over juveniles who commit traffic related offenses.  Additionally, the court holds jurisdiction over children who are abused, neglected, or deprived.

For young offenders who have been sentenced by the court as juveniles, the court may retain supervision over them until they reach the age of 21.  Rather than actually being sentenced to punishment akin to adults, juveniles are to receive treatment with the primary goal of rehabilitation.  Any offenses committed after the age of 17, are administered in an adult court.

The 1994 Amendment to the Juvenile Code, Certain Juveniles May Be Held in Adult Facilities

These are juvenile offenders charged with offenses over which the superior court has exclusive jurisdiction.  Also, public safety and protection must reasonably require their detentions in a jail.  Furthermore, detention of a juvenile in an adult facility requires an order from the superior court.  The juveniles must be held in separate rooms from adults in order to prevent any physical contact between a child and an adult offender.

At The Epps Law Group, our attorneys have been handling Juvenile Crimes for many years, and we welcome the opportunity to assist you in this type of case.  If you would like the opportunity to speak with one of our attorneys please call us at 678-456-4627 or contact us online to set up an initial consultation to discuss your case to see if we can assist.