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Bringing reform to juvenile justice
Hill Jack
State Sen. Jack Hill

HB 242 enacted many of the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgia’s recommendations. HB 242 is similar in nature to HB 1176 which addressed the adult criminal justice reform in the previous legislative session. 

The bill creates two different categories for designated felons, Class A and B.  Class A designated felons will have a maximum sentence of five years and an intensive supervision period of 12 months. Class B felonies are punishable by a term of up to 36 months, but with no more of 18 months spent in restrictive custody. 

By providing DJJ with more options, it increases their ability to place low-risk offenders in programs other than RYDCs and YDCs, thus reducing their chances of recidivating. Class A felonies are primarily violent offenses, such as murder, and rape, while Class B includes mostly less or non-violent crimes such as robbery, and illegal possession of drugs. HB 242 also created more options for Class B designated felons, by requiring low-risk offenders be confined in non-secure residential facilities. 

These classifications will help the state reach one of the Special Council’s main goals of reserving correctional facilities for the most violent of offenders.

Restricting lockups

Another important reform in HB 242 aimed at keeping low-risk offenders out of secure detention is the barring of juveniles who committed offenses which would be misdemeanors if they were adults from being placed in secure out-of-home facilities.
HB 242 states that any juvenile committed to a secure detention facility must be guilty of a crime that would be a felony if committed by an adult, unless that juvenile had three previous adjudications, one of which must have been a felony. The Special Council had included this as one of its recommendations due to finding that many youth who committed crimes that would be considered misdemeanors as adults are classified as low-risk offenders. 

Grants to help local communities

Another recommendation of the Special Council was included in the fiscal year 2015 general budget.  As a part of the bill, the General Assembly appropriated $1.25 million in state funds to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council for the expansion of the community-based Juvenile Incentive Funding Program.

The purpose of this program is to increase incentives for communities to create and utilize community-based juvenile justice programs.

According to the Special Council’s report, community-based options for juvenile offenders not only can have a positive impact on recidivism, but also lead to state savings due to offenders not being placed in expensive state facilities.

Crimes by children

Another key reform is the creation of a disposition of Children in Need of Services (CHINS). CHINS is a disposition that includes youth who have committed crimes that are only crimes because they are children. 

Previously, youth who were guilty of these crimes were still eligible to be sent to the most restrictive of settings, secure detention. HB 242 focuses on keeping these offenders accountable, but doing so in the least restrictive manner, ideally the home. 

Youth under this disposition face a maximum term of two years, although the court can extend to another two years, with an additional hearing after the conclusion of the first term. 

Once again, the key of this reform is giving judges more options to better serve troubled youth, as well as keeping low-risk offenders out of settings in which they are surrounded by higher risk youth.

If you would like to read the HB 242 in its entirety, you can do so here:

Or a summarized version, put together by Just Georgia, here:

Next: The conclusion on the benefits of the reforms enacted by HB242

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