Juvenile Code Assessment Project
In 2006, Georgia Appleseed, the Barton Child Law & Policy Center, and Voices for Georgia’s Children formed JUSTGeorgia, a collaboration of nonprofits created to secure a comprehensive rewrite of Georgia’s 40-year-old Juvenile Code. A critical early step in this effort was a statewide interview process managed by Georgia Appleseed in which volunteer lawyers interviewed hundreds of juvenile justice and child welfare stakeholders. Pro bono attorneys asked three key questions of each interviewee: (1) “what works [in the then current juvenile code]?”, (2) “what doesn’t work?”, and, most importantly, (3) “if you could, how would you fix it?”
The results were summarized in a report called Common Wisdom: Making the Case for a New Georgia Juvenile Code. This report became a key starting point in a multi-year, transparent, inclusive process that resulted in the unanimous passage in 2013 of Georgia’s new juvenile code, which went into effect on January 1, 2014.
In the spring of 2017, a new effort, the Juvenile Code Assessment Project, was launched that again relied upon volunteer attorneys, who were trained on the new code’s reforms, with the ultimate goal being to learn from stakeholders their insights about the code’s impact now that it has been in effect three years. Pro bono attorneys covered all of Georgia’s ten Judicial Districts interviewing juvenile court judges, prosecutors, defense counsel, government agency leaders, case workers, child advocates, guardians ad litem, court appointed special advocates and others to secure their critical input.
The passage of the new Juvenile Code was an important part of Governor Nathan Deal’s overall criminal justice reform initiative, elevating Georgia’s national reputation for smart reform in this area. The 2018 legislative session was the final session of Governor Deal’s two terms. It is the intention of this Project that Georgia benefit from appropriately funded, common sense juvenile justice reform, implemented with fidelity throughout the state, and guide needed, future legislation that will promote public safety and protect the rights of all Georgia’s children, youth, families and communities. In spring 2018, the assessment report was released titled Embracing Common Wisdom: The New Juvenile Code in Georgia.
Thank you to Nelson Mullins and Kilpatrick Townsend for being co-lead pro bono firms for this project and to EY for their pro bono data collection and management services. Also thank you to the following firms for conducting stakeholder interviews:
Alston & Bird
Arnall Golden Gregory
Holland & Knight
Hunton & Williams
King & Spalding
and legal staff from Southern Company.