When Governor Deal signed the juvenile justice reform bill on May 3, Voices and our two partners who lead the JUSTGeorgia Coalition immediately turned to two tasks: thanking the scores of individuals and organizations who had worked tirelessly on the bill to improve opportunities for young people, and offering support for implementation.
Joined by the Juvenile Law Committee of the State Bar of Georgia, the original drafters of a model code, JUSTGeorgia hosted more than 100 stakeholders who had labored together for several years to adapt the model code for Georgia and to create a more effective approach to children who break the law. In the beautiful terrace setting of the Nelson Mullins law firm, we recognized court professionals, state agencies, legislators, funders, providers and advocates. Others expressing their appreciation to the guests included Representative Wendell Willard, sponsor of the bill, and Thomas Worthy, Deputy Executive Counsel to Governor Deal. To close the celebration, Lourdes Aguilar, a South Cobb student and member of EmpowerMEnt, thanked everyone on behalf of the all Georgia youth who will benefit from changes in the law.
With an effective date for the legislation of January 1, 2014, court professionals and state agencies are undertaking training and reference manuals for those who work with the Juvenile Code every day. JUSTGeorgia team member, the Barton Child Law and Policy Center, is using its deep knowledge of current and new law to help develop materials and to offer training for both professionals and volunteers in the field. Voices and Georgia Appleseed are facilitating information and discussions about community-based services that can serve the needs of delinquent children. We also will offer other groups, including educators and county staffs, help in presenting the impact of the new law on their members and constituents.
Passing laws and regulations is not the end of an advocate’s journey. We will support and monitor implementation to ensure that the bill achieves the intended improvements in the lives of children.