Friday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

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State Reforms Could Give Options to Wayward Teens, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Lawmakers in this traditionally tough-on-crime state approved a sweeping rewrite of Georgia’s rigid sentencing laws a year ago, allowing more nonviolent adult offenders to avoid costly prison stints. This session, the General Assembly . . . will consider changes to the state’s juvenile justice system, which costs $300 million a year but has had a poor success rate in keeping Georgia’s wayward teenagers from committing repeat offenses.

Among the key proposals will be financial incentives for counties to create community-based treatment programs for nonviolent juvenile offenders as alternatives to incarceration. Lawmakers also will consider creating two new classes of sentences for juveniles who commit any of the 30 so-called “designated felonies,” which ensure lengthy terms of incarceration. One class would give sentences of up to five years for juveniles who commit violent crimes while the other would provide punishments of no more than 18 months for nonviolent offenders.

Officials Fear Pot Dispensaries May Harm Fight Against Drug Use, The Boston Globe

In Walpole, which has struggled to curb underage drinking and drug use, questions raised by the statewide legalization of medical marijuana go beyond how dispensaries will be regulated. Officials also worry that the new law will lead to increasing positive attitudes about the drug among young people, exacerbating a problem youth-outreach advocates said they had just started to get a handle on.

Nonpublic Special Education School Graduates Outpace their Peers in Public Settings, The Baltimore Sun

They have higher rates of employment, independence after graduation when compared to national results, study finds.

The Ohio Model: State Youth-Prison Reforms are Paying Off, But Also Concentrate the Violence, The Columbus Dispatch

The high rate of assaults — 48 times greater per inmate than in the adult prison system — and the toll it takes on those hired to help these kids is terrible. Efforts should continue to improve safety and to provide these youngsters the help they need to turn their lives around.

But problems with the hardest cases should not obscure the fact that in most other respects, Ohio’s handling of young offenders has become a national model. The state now locks up fewer youths, and only the most hard-core cases. This reform concentrated the worst kids in prisons, and overall has cut costs, recidivism and juvenile-crime rates.

The institutions didn’t get worse; their residents did.




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