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Tuesday, September 18, 2012 - 12:01pm

Criminal Justice Council Tackles Recidivism

A special juvenile justice council appointed by the Governor met Tuesday to review new data on young criminal offenders. It shows that underage Georgians who are locked up for breaking the law often commit another crime later.

The main challenge for the Special Council on Criminal Justice reform is to tackle the recidivism rate for young offenders, which is at about 50%. That’s according to a new report from the Pew Center on the States.

Georgia spends around $250 per day on each juvenile detainee, an expense that advocates say could be better spent on rehabilitation, keeping low-risk offenders out of the system: Juvenile Justice Judge Steve Teske from Clayton County is the newest appointed member of the Council:

“That means we have to stop spending all this money on low risk youth and devote it to the high risk youth. At the same time, we do know that the more we put on low risk youth, we’re making them worse, which means we’re wasting taxpayer money.”

Julia Neighbors with Voices For Georgia’s Children says a focus on rehabilitating low-level juvenile offenders needs to be a priority:

“If we’re looking to decrease recidivism rates, then we really need to examine what happens to kids once they’re in the system and are we looking at the most appropriate interventions for young people.”

The council was appointed to overhaul the juvenile justice system in Georgia—last year’s bill failed, with critics citing the cost to implement it. Georgia will spend $300 million this fiscal year on juvenile incarceration and supervision.

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