-- Valdosta, Ga. -- March 22, 2013 --
House Bill 242 could change the way juveniles are punished in Georgia. Instead of kids going straight to juvenile detention centers, they would instead serve their time in community programs.
Jim Shuler is the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice spokesperson. He said "this bill represents landmark reform and positive change for the juvenile justice system."
One Lowndes County resident said "I think the senate has done a tremendous job."
With senate approval, the bill now goes back to the house which needs to sign off on some minor changes.
supporters of the bill say it could save Geo rgia's tax payers more than eighty million dollars over the next five years. They say on average, it costs the state roughly ninety thousand dollars a year to keep a juvenile in a detention center.
Another Lowndes County resident said "if it saves us Georgia tax payers money, you know, I gotta say go with it."
According to research that the legislation was based on, sixty five percent of teens locked up for violent and minor offenses will commit another crime within three years. With community based programs, that number drops to less than ten percent.
But Lowndes County's Juvenile Judge thinks there's work to be done long before a kid gets in trouble. Juvenile Judge James Council Jr. said "focus on getting some teaching to young mothers that have children that have no idea how to take care of and rear them."
There are twenty regional juvenile detention centers spread throughout the state.
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