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Special Council on Criminal Justice Turns its Attention to the Kids

Mike Klein

One challenge in almost every policy discussion is how to make the numbers mean something.  So, let’s hope these numbers mean something.  The annual cost to fully incarcerate someone in Georgia’s juvenile detention system is $98,000 per bed, more than five times greater than adult prison system per person costs.  On the other hand, the state share is about $4,300 per pupil in the K-12 public school system.  One is an investment in the future. The other is simply shocking.

“Where is that money going?  Where is that $98,000?”  That question – asked rhetorically – was among several posed this week when the newly reconstituted Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform held its first meeting to consider a vast rewrite of the state juvenile code.  The Council retained all 13 members whose work helped to craft ideas for this year’s adult criminal justice system reforms, and it added eight new members, several with juvenile code expertise.

The Council is also expected to consider some unfinished business from the 2012 adult system reforms; in particular, more work on earned compliance credits, mandatory minimum safety valve sentencing ideas, and possible decriminalization of some traffic offenses.  But make no mistake about it; the main course on this year’s menu will be juvenile justice reform.

“States across the country including Georgia are facing very high per child costs in the juvenile system,” Pew Center on the States public safety analyst Jason Newman told the Council.  Part of the reason for higher per person expense is the juvenile system has costs that are not found in the adult system.  For example, mandatory education and especially special education which is costly.

Newman also told the Council, “Most states are not getting very good outcomes.”  That includes Georgia; 45 percent of juveniles who serve time in secure facilities commit another crime within three years.  They return to the juvenile system, or after age 18 show up in the adult system.

This year the General Assembly nearly enacted a package of significant juvenile reforms.  A bill that unanimously passed the House (HB 641) was sidelined because of questions about state expense and how local communities would afford services they would be asked to provide.  The bill has existed in various forms for about five years, with lots of stakeholder contributions.

The Special Council faces a December 31 deadline to submit its recommendations to Governor Nathan Deal.  A new bill is expected in the 2013 Legislature.  The Council will again receive technical assistance from the Pew Center and this new venture is joined by the Annie E. Casey Foundation which has decades of juvenile code expertise.

There is a great deal more to this conversation than questions about incarceration or expansion of community-based alternatives, similar to the path being implemented in the adult system.  For example, the juvenile code as envisioned in HB 641 would address juveniles who are unruly, but their actions would not be crimes as adults.  Some Council members indicated they want to learn more about how to decide whether 17-year-old offenders should be treated as juveniles or adults.

The Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice will spend $300 million this fiscal year.  That will pay for seven Youth Development Campus facilities where juveniles can be held as long as two years; this is the juvenile equivalent of the state adult prison system.  DJJ operates 20 Regional Youth Detention Centers where juveniles are held while awaiting adjudication for an offense.   The department is also responsible for some 14,000 youths in community-based settings.

When you look at all the services provided – and all the locations where service is provided – the state DJJ interacts with about 41,000 juvenile offenders per year and it maintains a daily headcount of almost 16,000 offenders in its secure detention or community-based programs.

As noted above, 45 percent of all committed youth will be charged with a new crime within three years and the number is 60 percent for those sentenced to confinement in a Youth Development Campus secure facility.  “That rate has increased slightly over the last eight to nine years,” Pew’s Newman told the Special Council.  “So despite significant costs the state is actually seeing recidivism rates that are on the rise.”

“With all due respect, those numbers are lower than I thought,” said Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry, who is newly appointed to the Council.  “It depends on what you are asking,” Newman said.  “If you’re talking about re-arrested those numbers are higher. These are just the ones that are re-adjudicated,” meaning, they are back inside DJJ facilities or programs.

Changes Underway in the Adult Corrections System

This week’s Special Council meeting was notable for something else – a rare and illustrative discussion of changes already underway in the adult criminal justice system.  Tracking system reforms is a complex challenge because implementation has no single executive team and it has no website that would help the public learn about what’s being done, when and where.

The Department of Corrections will open new residential substance abuse treatment centers this month in Turner, Appling and Pike counties.  The Appling and Pike facilities are so-called dual diagnosis centers that also specialize in mental health services.

“We know mental health is a growing population, a growing segment of our probation and prison population,” said Jay Sanders, special assistant in the Corrections probation operations division.  “Our goal is to keep offenders – those that we can, not everyone – out of prison and in the community.”  Each center can provide mental health and substance abuse service to about 200 offenders.

A new probation day reporting center opened last week in Savannah and another will open within six months but the location has not been announced.  “These hold 100-to-125 individuals,” Sanders said.  “They report in every day, see their officer.  They’re drug tested and go to counseling.”

Community impact program sites are now open in Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Macon, McDonough and Rome.  These local offices connect mental health, education and labor resources with released offenders who are re-entering the community.  Two or three more are anticipated.  “We want to give you the opportunity to succeed so we don’t see you again on probation, in prison or on parole,” Sanders told the Special Council.

The Special Council did not announce a timetable for next meetings.  It will divide into work groups.  State Court of Appeals Judge Michael Boggs and Governor’s Office deputy executive counsel David Werner are co-chairs.  “Nothing is off the table,” Boggs told the panel.  “We want to make sure that we are inclusive.”

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

July 18, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Final Breath From This Year’s Georgia General Assembly

Mike Klein

The final breath has been drawn by this year’s Georgia General Assembly.  Here is what lawmakers did on seven issues that are closely tracked by the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.  This article discusses state charter schools, digital learning, criminal and juvenile justice reform, pension and tax reform, and health care.  All of these will require more work going forward and in some cases, much more work starting soon.

State Charter Schools

This November voters will decide who got it right:  Lawmakers four years ago when they created a state charter schools commission or the state Supreme Court last spring when it ruled that the commission was unconstitutional.  The very fact that voters – not the state Supreme Court and not legislators – will settle this question was by no means assured during the session.

House Resolution 1162 faced a significant hurdle to achieve a two-thirds House super majority and it almost collapsed in the Senate.  Opposition came from some of the state’s largest school systems and organizations that represent school boards, superintendents and teachers.  Those groups were focused on how to stop voters from having a chance to decide the question.

They might have prevailed until the Senate’s two longest serving members – Democrats George Hooks and Steve Thompson – delivered powerful chamber speeches to explain why they would vote yes.  Hooks, Thompson and two other Democrats joined all 36 Republicans to vote for the constitutional amendment resolution.  Another “yes” vote in November would start development of a new commission whose bones are contained in House Bill 797.

The commission could approve virtual or brick-and-mortar schools.  Students could live within defined local boundaries for traditional schools or statewide for virtual schools.  The commission would consider applications only from groups that were already rejected by local school boards.  Those same local boards would be permitted to explain why they rejected the application.

New and existing state commission charter schools would receive only state dollars.  Traditional schools would be paid operating expenses figured on the state’s school funding formula for the lowest five school systems based on assessed valuation, plus a or capital expenditures amount.  Virtual schools would receive two-thirds of the amount given to traditional schools for operating expenses.  Schools that offer blended learning – online with a teacher – could receive some capital funding at the discretion of the commission.

“No” from voters in November would render House Bill 797 unnecessary.

Resources: House Resolution 1162House Bill 797

Digital Learning

State-based digital learning is about to explode in Georgia.  Two bills are responsible.

House Bill 175 actually was introduced and passed the House last year.  This year it passed the Senate.  The bill establishes a clearinghouse of online learning courses that would be managed by Georgia Virtual School (GAVS) at the Department of Education.  Courses could originate with public school systems – such as Cobb, Forsyth and Gwinnett school systems that have robust online curriculum – or from other sources that could include online learning companies.

This clearinghouse method has the potential to create vast amounts of content that could be available to any student who has online access anywhere in the state.  GAVS serves about 10,000 students with courses that supplement their traditional bricks-and-mortar classroom work.  The expectation is that GAVS could serve 100,000 students within just a few years.

Senate Bill 289 takes digital learning another step forward; it directs the state board of education to ramp high school digital learning resources for today’s current sixth graders before they are freshmen in fall 2014.  The original Senate bill said those students who are scheduled to graduate in spring 2018 would be required to take at least one online learning course before high school graduation but that language was changed to “maximize the number.”

The clearinghouse would also be managed through the Georgia Virtual School.

Resources:  Senate Bill 289House Bill 175.

Criminal Justice Reform

When the final ink was dry, everyone agreed it is time to move forward with widespread reform.  The House voted 162-0 and the Senate 51-0 on final legislation that will emphasize treatment programs over hard-time incarceration for some property crime offenders and low-level drug users.  From the beginning supporters said these are not going-soft-on-crime strategies.

New ideas adopted this year recognize the state cannot continue to absorb more than the $1.5 billion per year that it spends on prisons, parole and probation.  State prisons hold 56,000 inmates and each day local jails contain hundreds to thousands of inmates who are waiting for an empty state bed.  Georgia also has 22,000 adult parolees and 156,000 on felony probation.

New ideas will take years to fully incorporate.  They include new and expanded accountability courts, especially drug and mental health courts that will reroute eligible offenders into treatment programs with severe oversight.  New definitions and penalty levels were established for several property crimes including theft, burglary, shoplifting and forgery.

The state will move toward prosecution of drug offenses based on the type and weight of drugs to clarify the distinction between casual users, sellers and traffickers.  Child abuse laws were tightened as were requirements for reporting suspected sexual abuse and suspicion of human trafficking.

Criminal justice reform is not a single year issue.  It will take money and time to develop public and private resources.  Sheriffs and the county district attorneys are concerned about the impact of reform on their budgets, facilities and staffs. Everyone already knows this will take a steep learning curve and come corrections are likely.  Governor Nathan Deal kept the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform intact and it is expected to have new assignments this year.

Resources:  House Bill 1176.  Policy Foundation Issue Analysis.

Juvenile Justice Reform

The outlook was bright when the House voted 172 – 0 to pass ambitious legislation that would rewrite nearly every section of the state’s juvenile code.  But the outlook proved to be too bright when the Governor’s Office said it wanted more financial analysis and the current bill died.

Much like adult criminal justice reforms, the bill emphasized treatment over incarceration when appropriate for juveniles.  It also made changes to policies that regulate foster care, permanent placement hearings, adoption codes, family mitigation hearings, children who are status offenders and the rights of parents.  None of the changes would be enacted until July 1, 2013.

Advocates – and there are many inside and outside government — believed they could work out funding details before July 2013 and during the next General Assembly.  That strategy came up short at the Governor’s Office and the bill never reached the Senate.  It has been at least five years since hard work was begun to rewrite the code and it will be at least one more.

Resources:  House Bill 641.  Policy Foundation Issue Analysis.

Pension Investment Reform

Pension investment management is an ongoing hedge that contributions and investment returns will continue to generate the cash flow required to pay benefits.  Public sector pensions nationally have started to come under pressure as baby boomers began to claim retirements while equity investments were losing billions of dollars and other state revenues were shrinking. Georgia has taken a small step forward to help stabilize its pension system investment returns.

Senate Bill 402 would permit the Employees Retirement System to allocate up to but not more than 5 percent of its available assets into alternative investments that include venture capital pools and other private placements specifically named in the legislation.  ERS had $14.9 billion invested on June 30 of last year, about two-thirds in equities and the remainder primarily in U.S. Treasury notes or bonds.  Currently, the 5 percent threshold would be about $750 million.  The Teachers Retirement System is exempt and it is not allowed to make similar investments.

Many independent analyses have concluded Georgia public sector pensions are better funded at a higher percentage than most other states but Georgia does have a liability position and it needs to close the gap between funds available and owed over time.  Georgia is not breaking new ground; it is adopting an investment strategy already authorized in every other state.

Additional resources:  Senate Bill 402.  ERS 2011 Audit.

Tax Reform

The results here were mixed and tax reform requires more work.

Pro-business and economic development changes adopted this year include the elimination of sales tax charged on energy used in manufacturing, agricultural tax relief, reduction of the sales tax paid on jet fuel purchases (to help all commercial airlines) and some other modernization of the tax code.   Pro-family changes that will prove to be politically popular include reduction of the marriage penalty on state income taxes and a guarantee that the first $65,000 of income earned by retirees (plus Social Security) will be continue to be exempt from state income taxes.

The motor vehicle revenue structure will change. The state will charge a title fee rather than state and local sales tax on new car purchases after March 1, 2013; essentially, that is a wash.  But the state will no longer impose the much hated annual ad valorem value tax on vehicles purchased starting in March next year.   The state will continue to impose ad valorem tax on millions of existing vehicles so in practicality, it will take years to fully convert this system.

For the second straight year the Legislature took no action to reduce state personal income tax rates that peak at 6 percent, which are among the highest rates in the southeast.  Tax reform also did not address possible state sales tax rate or corporate income tax rate questions.  House Speaker David Ralston has said personal income tax rate reform should be a priority.

Additional Resources:  House Bill 386.

Health Care Reform

Not much happened in the General Assembly because Georgia is waiting for an early summer U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act case.

Georgia is among 26 plaintiff states that are asking the Supreme Court to throw out the law.   Nine justices have the option to keep the law as is, throw it out entirely or select bits and pieces to uphold or reject, including the contentious individual mandate.  Health care dominoes will begin to fall into a more predictable pattern after the opinion which is expected in late June.

This issue affects every Georgian, whether you work for or own a business, purchase your own health insurance, use public sector programs or have decided you do not want insurance.  You could be forced to obtain insurance whether you want it or not, and larger numbers of your tax dollars could be required to support public sector insurance programs.

For example, existing health care law would expand the number of Medicaid eligible Georgians by 650,000 to 750,000 within two years.  The anticipated cost to the state in new dollars would be $2.5 billion over ten years, paid for somehow by someone, most likely taxpayers.  If upheld, the law would also force Georgia to create a health insurance exchange that it currently does not have, or to accept one that is created and overseen by the federal government.

Several pieces of Georgia legislation were introduced this year that could become the basis for a state-based health care solution if the federal law or portions of it are ruled unconstitutional.  None of this year’s Georgia bills passed the General Assembly but they could be resurrected as a package or individually next year.  How all this plays out depends on how the Supreme Court feels about the greatest expansion of the federal government into health care since Medicare.

Additional Resources: GPPF analysis of U.S. health care spending.  GPPF commentary on state health exchanges.

Save the Date: Monday January 14, 2013 for the next Georgia General Assembly!

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

March 29, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Senate Passes Criminal Justice Reform 51-0 with Amendments

Mike Klein

Georgia criminal justice reform has passed both chambers but the House would need to agree to substitute legislation because the Senate added seven amendments when it passed the bill 51-0 on Tuesday afternoon.  Two other floor amendments failed and two were withdrawn.

None of the amendments dramatically change Georgia’s most sweeping criminal justice reform since a generation of do the crime, do the time laws were passed some twenty years ago.

Governor Nathan Deal made criminal justice reform a major priority during his first State of the State address in January 2011.  The work of the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform last year and the legislature this year are an important first step forward with others to follow.

The satisfaction that was evident because of these reforms is somewhat tempered because the fate of a juvenile justice code rewrite is less certain.  Some sources who are familiar with the HB 641 juvenile code rewrite said Tuesday that the bill is dead this year because it still requires more financial analysis of the impact that would be made by proposed changes.

So for the moment the spotlight shines on adult criminal justice system reforms.

Monday afternoon Sen. Bill Hamrick outlined changes to burglary, forgery and other sections when he presented House Bill 1176 to the Senate.  Hamrick is co-chair of the Special Joint Committee on Criminal Justice Reform.  One amendment would reduce the number of felony burglary levels from three in the House version to two in the Senate version.

Senator Bill Hamrick

“After discussion with prosecutors we believe it was a little too complicated and so we’ve narrowed it to two,” Hamrick said about the burglary section.  Residential burglary would become a first degree felony and all other burglaries would become second degree felonies.  The House and the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform both said that burglary of an occupied home should be treated different from burglary of unoccupied sheds or buildings.

The Senate version would also change the forgery statute.  “Checks are the most common type of forgery,” Hamrick said.  Felony check forgery would be established at $1,500 and above, or possession of ten or more blank checks that were intended to be passed as forged checks.  Forgery of checks valued at less than $1,500 would be prosecuted as misdemeanor offenses.

Other changes would assist counties with drug court funding, assist state courts if their case loads grow due to other criminal justice reforms, make sure misdemeanor crimes are counted when a person’s recidivism record is being reviewed and strengthen the state’s prosecution language for persons who are charged with trafficking a person for sexual purposes.

There was bipartisan enthusiasm for reform on the Senate floor.  “It is my hope that not only can we pass this unanimously but also look toward some of the remaining issues that in the future may need to be addressed,” said Democratic Sen. Emanuel Jones.  Gov. Deal has kept the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform intact and its work is expected to continue this year.

The intent of this two-year reform initiative is to slow down the anticipated growth inside Georgia prisons by emphasizing alternatives to incarceration for non-violent property crime offenders and personal drug abusers who would benefit more from intense treatment programs.

Twenty years ago Georgia had a $500 million state prisons budget and about 30,000 inmates. A generation of popular do the crime, do the time laws exploded the prison population. Today the state has 56,000 inmates and a $1.1 billion prison budget plus several hundred million dollars more for parole and probation.  Georgia faced having 60,000 inmates plus $264 million in additional new cost within four years if the state did nothing about criminal justice reform.

Another section in the new law would change public access to records kept on persons who are charged but never prosecuted or charged but never convicted.  The charge — regardless of the outcome — often makes it difficult and sometimes impossible to find employment, which is one of the two key factors in rehabilitation.  The other is available secure housing.

Hamrick noted people who have an arrest but no conviction “deal with that on their record for the rest of their life, basically.  We have some provisions in the bill that would allow for those records to be restricted when a person is applying for a job but not restricted to the extent that law enforcement or judicial officials would not get that information.”

The House and Senate are not in session Wednesday.  House consideration of the Senate amendments will become an agenda for the 40th and final day on Thursday.

March 27, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Georgia House Passes Juvenile Justice Reform Bill 172-0

Mike Klein

The most sweeping juvenile justice reform legislation since Jimmy Carter was Governor sailed through the Georgia House on Wednesday afternoon, passing 172-0.  It moves to the Senate where passage is predicted and then on to Governor Nathan Deal who supports the legislation. Leaders from both parties spoke favorably in the well before the overwhelming vote.

House Bill 641 would update Georgia statutes to make certain the state is in federal compliance. Like ongoing adult criminal justice reform, the legislation moves the state toward provision of more services to juveniles who need personal treatment and less reliance on incarceration when juveniles are not considered a threat to themselves, their families or public safety.

A series of short presentations from bipartisan speakers outlined updates in the 245 pages of HB 641. There would be changes to policies that regulate foster care, permanent placement hearings, adoption codes, family mitigation hearings, children who are status offenders, the rights of natural parents and the creation of a new commission that would routinely review the changes so that another four decades does not pass before this subject is broached.

Exactly what it would cost to implement HB 641 remains uncertain, so the bill received strong bipartisan support largely on financial faith.  The bill would not take effect until next year, and not until the 2013 General Assembly receives a financial impact report and authorizes funds.

House Judiciary Chairman Wendell Willard

House Judiciary Chairman Wendell Willard spoke to the point: “We’ve had several people address this. We’ve had a great deal of discussion.  Nobody can say specifically what the cost is.  I’ve asked the departments, the prosecuting attorneys, (and) the defense counsel to give me some figures.  They come in all over the range.”

Willard assured the House, “We are going to do an empirical study as best as we can between now and next January and come back to this General Assembly with a full explanation of cost.

The bill calls for some things we have not had, that is, any state case because of delinquency issues must be done through a prosecuting attorney,” Willard said.  “It also provides that the child, just like for adults, will be represented by an attorney.”

The bill also mandates that juveniles would receive risk assessments.  “I say to you we have maybe some additional costs upfront but the big thing is going to be the savings we realize over the years by not having these children always locked up and the fact that we may save some childrens’ lives as far as their futures,” Willard said.  That is a part of it, a big part.”

This week the Georgia Public Policy Foundation published an issues analysis: “Five Essential Principles for Juvenile Justice Reform.”  The Foundation focused on less restrictive placements for low-risk offenders, comprehensive risk assessments for all youths, more family focused resolutions, informal processing for first-time and low-risk offenders and, a recommendation that pre-adjudication detention of juveniles for only those who present a safety risk.

Juvenile justice reform has been a significant priority for several state-based organizations including Just Georgia, the Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, Voices for Georgia’s Children and the Barton Child Law and Policy Clinic at the Emory University School of Law.

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

February 29, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Georgia Juvenile Justice Reform Bill Vote Expected on Wednesday

Mike Klein

The Georgia House is expected to vote Wednesday on juvenile justice reform legislation that is every bit as significant as a similar adult criminal justice reform initiative, but it has received less public scrutiny.  The bill appears to have significant bipartisan support in the House and Senate.  One big proposal would mandate that county prosecutors be assigned to every juvenile court.

“We are making substantial changes in the way in which we handle problem children in Georgia,” House Judiciary Chair Rep. Wendell Willard said this past weekend during the 21st annual Georgia Bar Media & Judiciary conference in Atlanta.  “One of the things that I’ve made sure is in there is that before the state can have any child placed in its custody there is going to be what we call a risk assessment to find out what are the problems that the child is facing.”

Willard introduced HB 641 with Republican and Democratic co-sponsors.  Four public groups – Just Georgia, the Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, Voices for Georgia’s Children, and the Barton Child Law and Policy Clinic at Emory University – have worked for several years to update the decades old state juvenile justice law.  There is a similar bill in the Senate.

The Georgia Public Policy Foundation has prepared a position paper, “Five Essential Principles for Georgia’s Juvenile Justice System.”  The report will be published Tuesday, February 28.

Georgia currently has some 50,000 youths in detention or under supervision.  Willard told the state bar meeting that improved risk assessment tools would allow for better decisions about who should be incarcerated and who would benefit more from other treatment options.

Continuing his explanation about assessment, Willard said, “Are there problems emotionally?  Is he or she being physically abused or are they being sexually abused?  A lot of them are.  They get in trouble, sometimes it’s what is going on in their home life or other situations.  Let’s start looking at finding a way to deal with the problem other than just locking up.”

Rep. Wendell Willard, House Judiciary Chair

Stronger emphasis on alternative treatment methods instead of mandatory incarceration closely matches work being done in the adult system which is trying to address who scares us and should be behind bars or, who just needs our help because they are not a public safety threat.

The juvenile justice reform bill sponsored by House Judiciary chair Willard was submitted in the 2011 Legislature.  Two days of hearings were held late last summer when the legislators were in Atlanta for the redistricting session. At 245 pages, the bill is big on words and new ideas.

One proposed revision would require the District Attorney’s office in every county to handle all Juvenile Court prosecutions.   “Under current practices that is not what happens in a majority of jurisdictions,” said Douglas County District Attorney David McDade who is also President of the Georgia District Attorneys’ Association.  McDade also appeared at the weekend state Bar panel.

Some Georgia juvenile courts hire prosecutors, some use District Attorney or other court staff and, McDade said, some larger circuits have dedicated full-time prosecutors.  “In an ideal world the state would fund a statewide prosecution model for every circuit,” McDade said in an email.  “Unfortunately, the state currently provides no funding for Juvenile Court prosecution.”  HB 641 also does not provide specific state dollars to fund new prosecutors.

Alternative treatment models are a recurring them in recommendations made last November by the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform, which considered only the adult system.  One of the Council findings, however, was there should be more focus on Georgia youth who run afoul of the law – some in serious ways and some not so seriously.  Willard said adult criminal justice reform legislation is “nearly ready.”

David McDade, President, Georgia District Attorneys' Association

An executive summary of the juvenile justice legislation written by Just Georgia discusses the dozens of proposed modifications and updates.  Just Georgia noted current state law contains no definition of abuse against a minor; the new law would define abuse “to include emotional abuse and prenatal abuse, in addition to physical abuse and sexual abuse and exploitation.”

In a world of acronyms, here’s another that would become more familiar lexicon: CHINS stands for children in need of services.  Disruptive actions by these children include status offenses that would not be crimes if committed by adults, such as skipping school, running away from home, violating curfew and smoking tobacco, and otherwise being unruly or disobedient.

Is bad behavior a criminal activity?  Under current law CHINS are dealt with as delinquents and might be subject to incarceration.  New proposals would incorporate a wide range of alternative treatment options for not just the child, but also the child’s family when there is one present.

Other proposed changes would reduce the maximum period of time before placement hearings for children under the age of seven.  Currently hearings must take place within twelve months after a child is placed into foster care; the proposal would reduce that to nine months.

Click here to read HB 641, the juvenile justice reform legislation.  Click here for Just Georgia.  Click here for Georgia Appleseed Center for Law and Justice.  Click here for Voices for Georgia’s Children.  Click here for the Barton Child Law and Policy Clinic at the Emory University School of Law.

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

February 27, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment