In Georgia, anyone under the age of 17 is considered a juvenile offender and enters a separate system for juvenile offenders, rather than the adult criminal justice system. A judge reviews their cases and decides an outcome. In a worst-case scenario, the outcome of a juvenile case can result in long-term confinement in a correctional facility. However, in most cases, the goal is not punishment, but rehabilitation.
Under some circumstances, depending on the juvenile’s age, he or she can be tried as an adult, and his or her case can be transferred to adult court. In the past, too many kids wound up in a juvenile detention facility. The system didn’t work. More than half of the kids previously in the system simply wound up in the system again within three years. The old system was also tremendously expensive. Each bed in a juvenile detention facility cost $90,000 yearly, and this resulted in a budget for Georgia’s Department of Juvenile Justice that was at a high of $300 million.
In 2013, the Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2013 was passed as HB 242. This law not only reduced costs but also changed the philosophy of juvenile detention in Georgia. Under this law, only the most serious and dangerous juvenile offenders are kept in custody.
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