Reducing Juvenile Crime: How A New Kentucky Law Could Help Here In Georgia

My Georgia Center for Opportunity colleague Josh Crawford penned an editorial on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on how a new law passed in Kentucky could help protect Georgia’s kids and help divert them from involvement in gangs. You can read the full article here.

In recent years, Louisville has experienced substantial increases in juvenile violence, with arrest rates for juvenile homicide suspects 50% higher than the national average and a majority of carjacking arrestees being under 18 in 2020 and 2021. This prompted Republican State Representative Kevin Bratcher to begin working on what would become House Bill 3, a comprehensive violent juvenile offender accountability and treatment bill. While some of House Bill 3 dealt with issues specific to Louisville, many of its provisions offer policies and best practices worth adopting in Georgia.

Most importantly, the bill required that any juvenile charged with a serious violent offense such as murder, rape, robbery, burglary in the first degree and so on, be immediately detained for a period not to exceed 48 hours. This mandatory detention serves two purposes. It not only protects the public and the juvenile by disrupting the cycle of violence but it also ensures meaningful time for mental health and drug abuse evaluations and comprehensive evaluations of the risks posed by the juvenile before a judge ultimately determines long-term release conditions or pretrial detention.

They also funded a new detention center in Louisville and a myriad of treatment programs intended to get juveniles with one foot in the streets and one foot in civil society back on the right track. This includes funding cognitive behavioral therapy which is being used to effectively get serious juvenile offenders back on a positive life course. Why fund programs in facilities and not just in the community? Treatment programs for high-risk juveniles are most effective after 200 hours of treatment.

Finally, the new law creates early intervention points for young people who showed no improvement in their diversion programs. It does so by allowing an interdisciplinary team to alter the treatment methods earlier. If parents are unwilling or refuse to comply with a child’s diversion plan, a judge has the authority to hold the parents accountable. Chronic, unexcused absences from schools are strong predictors of future juvenile delinquency.

Unresolved truancy is strongly predictive of future juvenile delinquency and even adult criminality. So, getting it right with those kids today can help a child escape being preyed on by adult gang members and prevent serious violence in the future.

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