Macon – After participating in a two-day presentation and discussion, prosecutors, representatives from the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, Bibb County School District and other government and community partners have developed the framework for a new school-justice partnership.
The partnership, modeled on successes experienced by Clayton County’s schools and juvenile court, will focus on addressing the root causes for why juvenile offenders break the law and offering diversion programs as an alternative to incarceration for low-level offenders.
Participants in the two-day site visit collaboratively began determining what offenses will result in students receiving needed services and under what circumstances a case is referred to court.
“The point is to make sure kids who get in trouble receive the services they need and aren’t prosecuted unless they need to be. There’s usually an underlying reason for why they’re getting in trouble,” said District Attorney David Cooke. “We’re not just helping the students who need it, but we’re making the schools and the community safer.”
Having treatment options available, school resource officers will come to be seen by students as adults who want to help them. Lines of communication could be opened with students, making them comfortable enough to come forward to tell officers information that could prevent future violent crimes. By diverting non-violent offenders to treatment programs, law enforcement and prosecutors can devote more time to prosecuting dangerous offenders.
“We’re excited. This has been proven to work in jurisdictions that have implemented it. They’ve all seen their graduation rates go up and their crime go down,” Cooke said.
It’s recommended that the remainder of the planning process be completed within three to six months.
Partners are working toward a goal of signing an agreement that would go into effect by the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year.
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Contact: Amy Leigh Womack