By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
$750K grant to fund Department of Juvenile Justice service program
Placeholder Image

The Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice received a $750,000 federal grant for a re-entry program, with the intent to have a pilot program identified by next month.

With hopes of reducing recidivism, the department is examining a way to make sure kids don’t return to their time behind bars.

“We want to make sure there’s a range of services available in the community when they’re released,” said B. Keith Jones, DJJ’s deputy director of operations for education and re-entry services.

Last year, a $50,000 planning grant was awarded, getting the ball rolling on the program. Case management for juveniles, Jones said, is the “backbone of re-entry.”

“We’re extremely proud that Georgia’s Department of Juvenile Justice was selected to receive this notable grant for our re-entry demonstration project,” said Commissioner Avery Niles in a DJJ release. “The Justice Program grant award speaks volumes about the quality of reform initiatives we have in progress and the dedicated Team we have in place to implement the updates in our community transition strategies.”

Jones said the commissioner’s goal is to have a re-entry plan in place for every juvenile within 120 days of release. Consultants and planners working on the project also hope to have a pilot site and pilot program identified by Nov. 1.

“We don’t just want to throw them out. We want to transition them and we’re being thoughtful about that,” Jones said.

By tackling certain areas of a juvenile offender’s life, the program will attempt to reduce the recidivism rate in Georgia. Key concerns, Jones said, included substance abuse, family life, education and mental health.

“Once you address those types of things, the youth are not likely to come back or (it) reduces their chance of coming back into an incarcerated environment,” he said.

To ensure a smooth transition, Jones insisted on allowing for the same services when juveniles are on the outside.

“What we’re offering inside the facilities we’ll be able to offer in the community as well,” he said.

For example, helping juvenile offenders apply for food stamps and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program gives some of the less fortunate a chance to get back on their feet.

“It’s not a lot of kids that it applies to, but for those that don’t have housing and things like that when they get out, we want to address that,” Jones said.

The standardized program evaluation protocol, Jones said, is expected to be implemented by the beginning of the next fiscal year on July 1, allowing for training time and any unforeseen variables.

Others around the country have taken notice of the state’s reform, Jones said, as the department has been asked to present to other states receiving grants around the country.

“The work in Georgia is not being overlooked,” he said.