Compared to the adult criminal justice system, the juvenile system takes a more holistic approach, using a youth’s naturally high capacity for change and growth to redirect behavior into more healthy and socially positive outcomes – including by providing youth an education. Responding to a 17-year-old’s misbehavior in developmentally appropriate ways can reduce the likelihood that the child will commit offenses as an adult.
Juvenile Justice reform in Georgia reduced incarceration of children younger than 17 by 46% since 2014.
In FY19, Juvenile Justice Grants served 1,350 and Community Service Grants served 614 at-risk youth across Georgia.
Georgia is one of only three states that processes all 17-year-olds as adults, instead of sending them to the juvenile justice system.
Why It Matters
The more protective factors a youth is exposed to, the lower their chances of committing youth violence or gang involvement.
The health and welfare of Georgia’s at-risk children depend on their staying in school and out of court. Georgia has seen a 46% decrease in youth incarceration since 2014, thanks to effective evidence-based therapies that are helping many court-involved children avoid future criminal misbehavior. Having successfully advocated for a long-overdue update of Georgia’s juvenile code, we are now taking a proactive approach to keep kids out of the juvenile justice system altogether.
Where Georgia Stands
Highlights of Our Work
Raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction
Georgia is one of only three states that processes all 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system, sending them to adult court rather than through the juvenile justice system.
Our work in this area:
Educating on the importance of treating 17-year-olds as children
Voices is advocating for the passage of House Bill 440, which would raise the age of Georgia’s juvenile jurisdiction to encompass non-violent 17-year-olds. We have worked closely with local and national partners to educate lawmakers about the opportunity to reduce crime rates long-term and protect youth from harm in the adult system through publications, private conversations, and testimony in legislative committee hearings. We partner with about 20 organizations each year in Justice Day at the Capitol, and this year we co-hosted a Talk Justice Tuesday event at the Capitol with the Barton Child Law and Policy Center, focusing the day’s discussion on raising the age.
Improving school climate
A positive school climate boosts students’ academic achievements and graduation rates, and helps students feel safe and supported in their learning environment. Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, an evidence-based framework, is associated with lower rates of student suspension and improved school climate ratings.
As of 2019, more than 1,500 schools were trained in PBIS.
Our work in this area includes:
Advocating for the expansion of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports.
Voices has advocated for the expansion of PBIS through communications materials demonstrating the effectiveness of this framework on reducing school disciplinary incidents and supporting a positive school climate.
Informing the role of School Resource Officers to better serve children
School Resource Officers (SROs) are law enforcement officers tasked with the public safety of schools. Voices began advocating for leveraging the role of SROs to improve school climate and culture in 2006 with the creation ofJUSTGeorgia, a statewide coalition led in partnership with Georgia Appleseed, Barton Child Law and Policy Center and the Interfaith Children’s Movement. SROs play a major role in ensuring schools are safe learning environments and student discipline matters are handled in the school (versus the criminal justice system) to the maximum extent possible.. Recently, Voices has focused on the training of SROs, acknowledging the great impact they can have to support children.
Our “This Child is Talking to YOU” series, in which children share the importance of being heard to their mental health and well-being, is now a part of SRO training with the Georgia Public Safety Training Center (the state’s main training agency of SROs across the state). We are now developing more content for training, such as child development, trauma responsiveness, and understanding implicit biases.
Protecting a rehabilitative approach to treating children in the juvenile justice system
Georgia has made major advances since 2014 in reducing detention rates and broadening access to data-driven, community-based services for children in the juvenile justice system. The system’s focus is on preserving and strengthening family relationships such that children can live in safe, secure environments.
More than 10,000 youth have received evidenced-based services through JJIG or CSG from FY14 to FY19.
Our work in this area includes:
Protecting progress in Georgia law where the aim is to rehabilitate youth and keep them out of jails and prisons
In 2013, Georgia’s Juvenile Justice Code was re-written such that the juvenile justice system’s aim was shifted toward rehabilitation and away from a punishment for punishment’s sake. With its passing, the main goal of the JUSTGeorgia Coalition was achieved. The total number of children in the juvenile justice system today is almost half the number that were in that system in 2013. One major accomplishment is the reduction in detention and life-altering support offered by the innovative Juvenile Justice Incentive Grant and Community Service Grant, which provide supportive evidence-based therapies and together are available for 98% of Georgia’s youth. Voices continues to lift up the ongoing accomplishments of the state’s reformed juvenile code through testimony in legislative hearings, developing educational materials and convening key stakeholders. Voices is also an appointed members of Georgia’s Juvenile Justice State Advisory Group, whose aim is to remove children from adult incarceration settings.
We are a nonprofit child policy and advocacy organization advancing laws, policies,
and actions that improve the lives of Georgia's children.