What is JUSTGeorgia?
JUSTGeorgia is a statewide juvenile justice coalition created in 2006. Its purpose is to advocate for change to Georgia's juvenile code and the underlying social service systems to better serve Georgia's children and promote safer communities.
Along with Georgia Appleseed, the lead partners that formed JUSTGeorgia The Barton Child Law and Policy Clinic of the Emory University School of Law and Voices for Georgia's Children.
The primary goal of JUSTGeorgia is to create a long-term coalition that will advocate, monitor, and report on the conditions, laws, and policies that affect the justice and safety of Georgia's young people.
Download a fact sheet about JUST Georgia here.
Georgia Appleseed's Role in JUSTGeorgia
Georgia Appleseed recognized that a new juvenile code for Georgia would need more than excellent research and draftsmanship if it were to be accepted by a majority of the stakeholders and policy makers. Drawing upon its core competencies of research, dissemination of findings and effecting change, Georgia Appleseed embraced the massive undertaking of gathering input from Georgians all over the state on their own opinions and ideas for improvement to the current code.
Georgia Appleseed recruited thirteen law firms to field teams of lawyers and other professionals to take on the huge task of gathering stakeholder input from each of the ten Judicial Districts within the State of Georgia.
For over a year, hundreds of lawyers and other professionals logged over 6,500 pro bono hours in identifying, interviewing, and transcribing interviews from a wide array of stakeholders, such as parents, young adults and older youth, law enforcement, child welfare workers, mental health providers, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, educators, business leaders, probation officers and many more. More than 300 individuals throughout the state were interviewed to reap that common and practical wisdom about "how we do things in Georgia."
In addition to these face-to-face interviews, Georgia Appleseed held a public Town Hall meeting, facilitated by the UGA Fanning Institute, in each of the ten judicial districts, to encourage input from the general community regarding the current juvenile code.
The combined input of the interviews, town hall meetings, and other comment opportunities resulted in meaningful, on-the-ground feedback that will
- help inform an insightful new code governing how deprivation and delinquency are handled, and
- assist children in need of services to get back on the path to growing up to be productive citizens.
This feedback has been gathered into a comprehensive Statewide Summary Report, ten Judicial District Reports, and an Executive Summary. To access the full array of reports, click here.
The JUSTGeorgia coalition supports the passage of legislation that would comprehensively revise the Georgia Code's juvenile court provisions. Accordingly, the "Child Protection and Public Safety Act" reflects substantive and organizational reform of Georgia's response to children and their families in cases of abuse, neglect, violations of law by children, and other circumstances requiring court intervention. The Act would reorganize the code for ease of understanding and application, modernize substantive provisions to reflect advances in research and practice, and bring Georgia into full compliance with federal laws applicable to juvenile court proceedings.
The Child Protection and Public Safety Act was originally introduced in 2009 as SB 292 by State Senator Bill Hamrick (R-Carrollton), and then underwent revisions after extensive review by legislators and stakeholders. A revised version of the Act was introduced in 2011 as HB 641 by State Representative Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) and as SB 127 by Senator Hamrick. During the most recent Georgia legislative session, the Act — which received strong bipartisan support — passed unanimously in the House and the Senate Judiciary Committee, but ultimately stalled in the Senate Rules Committee. The JUSTGeorgia coalition looks forward to once again collaborating with Governor Deal and House and Senate leaders during the 2013 legislative session to ensure that these critical reforms are adopted in Georgia.
Visit www.JUSTGa.org for more information and updates.