Would you rather spend upwards of $91,000 a year to lock up a juvenile offender or spend less money to prevent that? Juvenile Court Judge Council advocated the former at this morning’s Lowndes County Commission Work Session.
This is about a potential new grant Emergency Director Ashley Tye said he had been working on with Judge Council, applying to the Juvenile Justice Incentive Grant Program which was approved by the legislator and governor this year. (Governor’s Executive Order of 16 April 2013 directing the assembly of the Juvenile Justice Incentive Grant Funding Committee to allocate to counties the funding of $5 million approved by the legislature.) Lowndes County would act as the applicant agent or grant administrator on behalf of the juvenile justice department, and Judge Council would serve as the implementing agency, working with several groups such as LODAC ( Lowndes Drug Action Council, Inc.). If the grant is accepted, it will be awarded quickly, running from June to June. It’s a reimbursement grant: make the expenses, submit a report, and get reimbursed from the grant.
Judge James F. Council, Jr. (who in October replaced retired 40-year Judge Wayne Ellerbee) gave a description of the project, including that right now many young people were out of school and unable to find work, which is when “they get into all kinds of nefarious activities”. He thanked the Commission for letting Ashley Tye work with him and offered to come back at the end of the grant to talk about results.
Commissioner Joyce Evans wanted to know how approximately many children passed through the juvenile system during a period of year. Judge Council said in a month about a hundred or so. With a bit more thought he revised upwards to two hundred plus. He said they were trying to get together numbers on recidivism, specifically for four felonies which currently gets five years. Each year costs $91,000 or $98,000 per year.
Commissioner Richard Raines wanted to know what the benchmark was. Judge Council said it was 20% reduction of “your numbers”. He went to a meeting in Forsyth and the numbers for Lowndes County he saw there he said were skewed, so he’s working up better numbers. For example they said there were only six burglaries in Lowndes County in 2012, while he sometimes has that many on his calendar in a single day.
Judge Council clarified it was supposed to be 20% reduction in all the numbers, or the general crime rate. He said the main thing was to show we were working towards change. Estimated savings would be $550,000, and the state was essentially offering $500,000 to work with.
Commissioner Demarcus Marshall commended Judge Council on his efforts to reduce problems with local youth by improving the juvenile justice system. The judge said he thought the program would do that, and it wouldn’t cost the county any hard dollars. He told a story about a baby flushed down the toilet.
Judge Council advocated for the other side, as well, which is the department of family and children services. He said the county has a lot of expense in that area, and while he’s already made some changes, other would require working together with the city and the county.
Work Session, Lowndes County Commission (LCC),
Videos by Gretchen Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE),
Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia, 28 May 2013.