Chief Justice Carol Hunstein of the Supreme Court of Georgia delivered her annual State of the Judiciary address to a joint session of the House of Representatives and the Senate on Wednesday. She called for an overhaul of the state's juvenile justice system in addition to expressing support for recommendations of a special Criminal Justice Reform Council.
Statistics from the Department of Juvenile Justice show that in the past three years, nearly two-thirds of approximately 10,000 incarcerated young people in Georgia had substance abuse problems, and more than one-third had mental health problems.
Chief Justice Hunstein also urged lawmakers to enact proposals to create specialized courts designed to treat nonviolent adult offenders with substance abuse and military veterans who run into trouble with the law. She said the roots of an offender's behavior needs to be addressed by the justice system.
The chief justice said, "If we simply throw low-risk offenders into prison, rather than holding them accountable for their wrongdoing while addressing the source of their criminal behavior, they merely become hardened criminals who are more likely to re-offend when they are released."
She added, "The same reforms we are recommending to you for adults must begin with children. As with adults, we have learned that our get-tough tactics have failed to scare juvenile offenders straight."