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by Justin O’Dell

On February 7, 2013, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol Hunstein delivered her State of the Judiciary Address.  The address served as the fourth and final remarks during her term as Chief Justice.  The Georgia General Assembly is presently considering a revision to the juvenile criminal code similar to the highly successful revisions to the adult criminal code in 2011 and 2012.

It is noteworthy that Juvenile offenders are among the most expensive to incarcerate; each juvenile costs the state in excess of $90,000 per year to incarcerate.  Unfortunately, of those incarcerated and released, 75% or more will reoffend.

The Justice’s remarks are not a call to become soft on crime.  As she herself stated “”Some of our juvenile offenders have committed heinous, violent crimes and must be treated as adults and locked away from society. But they are the minority. For our citizens’ sake, we must do better with the majority. Many of our juveniles deserve a second chance.”

Her remarks highlighted the need for mental and behavioral health options for treatment of clearly disturbed juveniles, but also alternatives such as counseling and treatment for petty thieves and drug offenders whose behavior stems from abuse or other issues.

This process marks the continuing reevaluation of the criminal justice system and an important debate worth having.  The rate of incarceration and recidivism has increased precipitously in the United States and in Georgia costing taxpayers billions of dollars in direct expenses on inmates and even more on tangential and societal costs such as foster children of incarcerated parents, lost tax revenue due to unemployment among convicted criminals and property and corporate losses due to criminal activity associated with addiction.

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