More than 50 Georgia children arrested for serious crimes have languished in jail without a trial for more than six months. Fourteen of them have been in jail for more than a year, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s just not right,” said Bill Reilly, the chief of staff of the Juvenile Justice department. “An arrest does not a conviction make.” Officials favor legislation approved yesterday by the state Senate requiring children’s cases in Superior Court to go before a grand jury within 180 days.
“It’s outrageous for anybody to be in jail for any length of time without an official reason for being there,” said Rick McDevitt, president of the Georgia Alliance for Children. “The fact that the cops pick you up and charge you is not sufficient.” No guarantee of a speedy indictment for adults or juveniles exists under Georgia law, said Stephen Bright of the Southern Center for Human Rights. In DeKalb County, one teenager waited nearly 10 months for an indictment, according to court records obtained by the Journal-Constitution. Bright agrees that a time limit should be set into law, but says, “I would have a much shorter rule than 180 days – because there’s just no excuse for it.”