"The 5:44" with Denis O'Hayer
7:11 pm
Thu February 7, 2013

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Calls on Legislature to Pass Juvenile Justice Reform

Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol Hunstein listens as House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) introduces her for her annual State of the Judiciary speech to a joint session of the Legislature on February 7, 2013.
Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol Hunstein listens as House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) introduces her for her annual State of the Judiciary speech to a joint session of the Legislature on February 7, 2013.
Credit Denis O'Hayer/WABE News

  The Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court urged Georgia lawmakers to move ahead with a major overhaul of the system for treating and punishing young offenders.

In her annual State of the Judiciary address at the State Capitol on Thursday, February 7th, Chief Justice Carol Hunstein said Georgia’s current get-tough approach to young offenders is expensive and ineffective.  And she said most kids in trouble have not committed violent crimes.

"When did we stop believing that some young people deserve second chances?" Hunstein said.  "When did we start believing that a sixth grader should be suspended because she brought a Tweety Bird wallet to school, that was attached to a 10-inch chain?" 

Hunstein told a joint session of the Legislature it costs $91,000 per year for Georgia to house each young offender in juvenile detention.  Yet, she said, 65% of those young people end up committing crimes again when they get out.

Hunstein endorsed the proposals from a special commission, including more community-based programs, instead of detention, for non-violent juvenile offenders, and more flexibility for local governments to set up their own programs.  The package has the endorsement of Governor Nathan Deal.