For decades, the treatment of juvenile offenders has been uneven across Georgia’s counties. And the state violates federal law by locking up too many status offenders — kids who have committed offenses that are not crimes for adults, such as frequently running away or skipping school.
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In total, nearly 5,300 truants, runaways and unruly juveniles have been locked up in a state facility since 2004. On any given day, the number of status offenders locked in a state facility may be few, but it adds up over 12 months.
2004 — 632
2005 — 807
2006 — 740
2007 — 691
2008 — 640
2009 — 547
2010 — 431
2011 — 431
2012 — 362
Source: Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice
A proposal to overhaul Georgia’s juvenile justice system has passed the Georgia House and is expected to be before the Senate this week. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has chronicled the problems plaguing the system for years. In a series of articles last year, the newspaper exposed the system’s struggles with inadequate staffing, violent conditions and children locked behind bars for relatively minor offenses. The AJC will continue to closely follow how Georgia punishes its youngest criminals.