The Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner was in town talking to parents about a new law that will to change the way juveniles are disciplined by the state. The law will take effect on January 1st, 2014. The regulations are supposed to reduce the number of repeat offenders and the costs associated with them.
The Augusta Youth Development Campus has made headlines numerous times. Two years ago, an inmate was murdered there. Then last year, 5 inmates escaped from the facility. Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery Niles has made several staff changes because of those incidents, and he says a recent visit to the YDC has shown him the changes were for the better.
"Will the change continue to take place? As long as we have the solid leadership that we have here, you can look for perfect opportunities as it relates to providing that security for the youth that is housed there," Niles says.
Officials say it costs $91,000 a year to incarcerate a juvenile inside a Youth Development Campus, but with the help of a new law, they expect that number to change.
"I think you will see a decrease in that $91,000, and an increase in the productivity as it relates to getting the people the right treatment, the right rehabilitation that they deserve," Niles says.
The Juvenile Justice reform focuses on treating juvenile offenders, instead of locking them up. The goal is to help offenders through community-based treatment programs, but in order to do that, local officials need funding.
"There have been some grants from the state, there is going to have to be some more. But I think the state is going to have to first save the money on the incarcerations before they will put it into juvenile court, where we think it's needed," Juvenile Court Judge Doug Flanagan says.
And just because officials are looking to lower the number of inmates, that doesn't mean the violent offenders will stay on the streets.
"We're going to continue to do what we're doing. We're going to look at each case, we're going to take the facts, we will continue prosecuting those people who have committed adult crimes, as adults, whenever it's warranted, and every time it's warranted," District Attorney Ashley Wright says.
The new law will also give judges more discretion in sentencing, and offer more mental health and drug counseling for juvenile offenders.
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