It’s good news if you believe catching and punishing more criminals is the answer to keeping our communities safer. It’s bad news if you consider a higher incarcerated population a sign of skewed justice and misplaced priorities. But when we’re talking about youthful offenders, it’s clear the fewer who are exposed to the corrections system, the better.
And we also should agree that those who occupy our prisons and jails need to be kept safe from abuse of any kind. If a civilized population believes criminals should be kept out of mainstream society for the good of all, it also should protect their basic rights while they are wards of the state. That goes double for juveniles who still may have much of their lives ahead of them when their time is done.
And on this, Georgia is failing badly.
It was recently learned that four juvenile detention centers in Georgia ranked among the 13 worst in the country for highest rates of alleged sexual misconduct.
The 2012 National Survey of Youth in Custody, conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, was based on anonymous surveys completed by 8,707 youth randomly sampled from at least one facility in every state and the District of Columbia.
Nearly 500 inmates responded in Georgia, with more than 15 percent saying they have been victims of sexual abuse. ...
Juvenile justice already is a challenge for the state.
Georgia is one of six states that has seen its number of young detainees drop in recent years, by 52 percent from 1997 to 2010, according to a survey by Annie E. Casey Foundation, a nonprofit youth advocacy group.
Yet some 2,000 young people ages 13 to 21 remain locked up statewide. Most of them are considered nonviolent, and 40 percent are labeled “low-risk.”
According to the survey, the state spends about $91,000 per youth offender opposed to $19,000 for each adult prisoner. Despite that, the recidivism rate for such juveniles is an alarming 65 percent. ...
Strong enforcement of the law and swift, fair justice should be a goal for Georgia and every state.
Making sure those who are put into the legal system are kept safe from abuse needs to be a key part of that effort.