Georgia House passes juvenile justice reform bill

Good news out of Georgia. The Georgia House of Representatives just passed HB 242, the juvenile justice reform bill. It now goes to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature. Here is an excerpt from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Major changes are coming to how the state treats juveniles who get in trouble with the law under legislation that received final passage Monday.

House Bill 242 is now on its way to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk. The governor has indicated he supports it.

The bill is considered a milestone in the state’s two-year effort to reserve expensive prison bed space in both the adult and juvenile systems for the most violent offenders.

The bill is a rewrite of the entire Georgia juvenile code — which also addresses adoptions, parental rights and children who are neglected or abused. The focus on House Bill 242 as it moved through the legislative process, however, was on aspects of the bill that address the juvenile justice system — those who commit aggravated assaults and armed robberies as well as those accused of misdemeanors and status offenses such as running away or skipping school.

Advocates say the changes could save taxpayers $88 million over five years by diverting the less dangerous juveniles into community-based programs instead of locking them up at a cost to taxpayers of $247 a day or $90,000 a year for each detained juvenile. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, has said the changes also would mean Georgia would not have to build two more secure facilities to accommodate the growing number of juvenile offenders in state custody.

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