Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue has given a go-ahead to the Department of Juvenile Justice to end a program that officials say fails youths and costs taxpayers about $23 million a year, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Perdue approved a DJJ plan to fund community programs instead of incarceration for many young offenders. Whether the department can do away with its “short-term program” will depend on lawmakers’ willingness to change a 1994 law that gives judges authority to send even first-time, nonviolent offenders to state youth prisons for up to 90 days, alongside armed robbers and other violent offenders.
Some judges, especially in rural Georgia, consider the 90-day program one of their few tools because options to help youths are scarce or nonexistent in their communities. Steven Teske, a Clayton County judge, favors the department’s plan. “The short-term program is a failure,” he said. “Incarceration is not effective in reducing recidivism.” Once youths are released from the program, they’re more likely to get in trouble with the law again than are those who were placed on supervised probation in their communities, said to a report obtained by the Journal-Constitution. As of Friday, 424 boys and girls were locked up under the short-term program.