House passes new juvenile code
12:09 pm, February 28th, 2013
A 247-page bill overhauling the state’s 42-year-old juvenile code passed the Georgia House of Representatives this morning in a 173-0 vote. House Bill 242, sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, also includes several recommendations from the governor’s criminal justice reform council focusing on juvenile offenders.
Those recommended policy changes include creating two tiers of designated felonies and rerouting low-risk juvenile offenders to community-based treatment programs rather than youth detention centers. Willard said the measures are expected to save the state $85 million over the next five years and avoid the need to build two new residential detention centers.
The same chamber unanimously passed the juvenile code overhaul last year, which deals primarily with neglected and delinquent youth. However, that bill was held up in the Senate after prosecutors, indigent defense lawyers and county governments expressed concerns over how much the bill would cost to implement.
Willard’s bill this year softened some mandates on the involvement of prosecutors and indigent defense lawyers in juvenile court proceedings to address those cost burden concerns. “Doing what is the right thing for our children is not a partisan issue,” Willard told the House chamber before the vote.