By Mike Klein
Federal juvenile justice officials have noticed Georgia’s aggressive reforms and must like what they see because Washington is offering to pony up hundreds of thousands of new dollars to help the state implement ongoing juvenile reforms. On Monday the U.S. Justice Department said it could make up to $600,000 available this year, with similar offers in Hawaii and Kentucky.
The announcement said implementation grant funds would be used “to strengthen diversion and community-based options that will reduce their out-of-home population, avert millions of dollars in otherwise anticipated correctional spending, reduce recidivism and protect public safety. OJJDP applauds the efforts of Hawaii, Kentucky and Georgia and is committed to supporting states that undertake comprehensive juvenile justice reform.”
OJJDP is the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention at the U.S. Department of Justice. Georgia has partnered with technical assistance expert organizations during adult and juvenile justice reforms including the Public Safety Performance Project at The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Vera Institute. Their role generally is data research and analysis. Essentially, these organizations help you understand what the facts are, what they mean and the possible options and paths ahead.
Georgia adult and juvenile justice reforms are modeled on incarcerating serious offenders who pose a public safety risk, creating community-based models for offenders who do not pose a safety risk, and, improving mental health and drug abuse services to individuals who need help.
Georgia wants to stabilize existing incarcerated populations, slow or reverse the rate of growth in those populations and, reduce recidivism which is the re-incarceration rate within three years. Georgia adult offenders have a one-in-three re-incarceration rate, which is considered a failure.
Governor Nathan Deal started the criminal justice reform process in January 2011 with the appointment of a council to study adult corrections. Lawmakers enacted recommendations from the council in 2012, and they passed juvenile reforms in 2013. The implementation of juvenile reforms began in earnest in January this year, so the process remains in its earliest phase.
“When I took office, we simply could not afford the spiraling costs of incarceration,” said Deal told the Foundation. “With a 30 percent recidivism rate, we could no longer afford to pay $90,000 per juvenile detainee and $18,000 per adult prisoner.
“We have since made meaningful changes to our justice system to make our communities safer, help rehabilitate nonviolent offenders and tackle the growing costs of a system that wasn’t working for Georgians. These reforms are working, and people are taking notice. We will continue to build upon our previous successes in order to promote public safety and make our justice system work more effectively, and this grant will help us do so.”
The Pew Charitable Trusts wrote this analysis about Georgia juvenile reforms last year.
Private nonprofit organizations and institutions of higher learning are eligible to apply. The grant window is tight. Grant applications must be submitted not later than July 16, 2014. Click here to learn more about the grant in this U.S. Department of Justice announcement.