Juvenile code overhaul passes Senate
3:31 pm, March 21st, 2013
The combination juvenile code rewrite and justice reform bill is one big step closer to the governor’s desk.
The Senate passed House Bill 242, without debate, in a 47-0 vote this afternoon.
Governor Nathan Deal was an early supporter of HB 242, which incorporates many of the recommendations by the governor’s criminal justice reform council related to the juvenile justice system. For instance, HB 242 would created a two-tiered system of designated felonies and establish community-based treatment programs to keep low-risk youth offenders out of detention centers.
HB 242 also would modernize and clarify Georgia’s existing laws dealing with neglected and delinquent youth.
Bill sponsor Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said previously his bill is expected to save the state about $85 million over the next five years and eliminate the need for two additional juvenile residential facilities. The governor’s criminal justice system has reported it costs Georgia roughly $91,000 per bed per year to house a youth offender in a residential detention center.
There were changes made to HB 242 in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will have to be agreed upon by the House before the bill is eligible for the governor’s signature.
Willard, who is also an attorney, earlier characterized the changes as “nothing critical.”
The edits included lengthening the time in which judges must hold hearings for juveniles charged with status offenses, such as truancy, from 24 to 72 hours, and moving the effective date from July 1, 2013, to Jan. 1, 2014.
The Senate version also incorporated several related bills, including House Bill 219, which would allow courts to modify or vacate delinquency convictions of minors charged with sex crimes if those minors were being trafficked for sexual servitude or victims of sexual exploitation.