The chief justice of Georgia’s Supreme Court urged lawmakers to overhaul its juvenile justice system in the same way state leaders have proposed focusing more heavily on rehabilitating rather than jailing nonviolent adult offenders, reports the Associated Press. Chief Justice Carol Hunstein made the comments Wednesday in her annual State of the Judiciary address. She said that putting nonviolent youth offenders into juvenile jails increases the likelihood they will commit crimes in the future, wastes public money and exposes them to violence and abuse.
State funding cuts have limited access to mental health and child welfare services along with group homes, Hunstein said. As a result, she said juvenile judges sometimes face the choice of sending young offenders to lock-up facilities or sending them home “to get nothing at all.” She cited statistics from the Department of Juvenile Justice showing that in the past three years, nearly two-thirds of the roughly 10,000 incarcerated young people have substance abuse problems. More than one-third had mental health problems. “As with adults, we have learned that our get-tough tactics have failed to scare juvenile offenders straight,” Hunstein said.