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Georgia juvenile justice reforms lead to positive results

State governments are often under pressure to cut costs, even if it means marginalizing some people or groups who depend on state-funded services to get by or to make a positive change in their lives. However, what is sometimes overlooked is that by making investments up front, there may increased cost savings down the line, as well as meaningful benefits for those who need them.

An excellent example of this is how Georgia has been able to implement reforms to how it handles juvenile offenders. A diversion program called Second Chance Court is aimed at keeping kids out of long-term detention facilities in favor of giving them support and discipline so that they can end up with diplomas and degrees, and good jobs, instead of a criminal record.

Ultimately, it is not cost-effective to keep teenagers in secure facilities as punishment for their offenses. Being in confinement also does not provide the youth population there with any meaningful skills to rely on once they are released, making it more likely that they could end up in the adult criminal justice system.

Researchers found that Georgia could save about $85 million in five years if it did not have to build two new confinement facilities. And the program has been working: the number of juveniles in the state who are being confined has fallen 17 percent in just three years, while the number of kids awaiting placement has been cut in half.

While these are positive results, the best outcome for children who are facing juvenile charges is often to avoid being a part of the juvenile justice system in the first place. Attorneys experienced with Georgia juvenile cases can provide representation and work to make sure that the future of kids who have been charged will not be irrevocably endangered.

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