Sweeping changes are on their way to Georgia's Department of Juvenile Justice.
Governor Nathan Deal will sign two bills into law tomorrow, which have direct impacts to the Augusta YDC.
We wanted to find out how taxpayers may benefit from these changes.
We spoke to someone who's been inside the YDC about the impacts to Augusta's facility.
Hundreds of inmates are housed at juvenile justice facilities like the Augusta YDC.
“Housing all these violent and non-violent people is just creating a more hardened criminal,” said Devon Harris.
Harris is the CEO of Full Circle Refuge and has visited the YDC numerous times to help inmates.
But soon, a new law would only require violent offenders to be behind bars. Non violent offenders like drug dealers, expelled students or runaways would do community service or other outreach programs instead.
“For what it was for me was a milestone after working 20 years here, a change for the state. For our taxpayers, that saves us money again,” said Harris.
The new law will preserve prison bed space which will save taxpayers around $70,000 a year, per inmate.
“Right now its $250 a day to house one kid,” said Harris.
But does saving taxpayer dollars come at the cost of public safety? Devon Harris who helps inmates through rehab programs says NO.
“These really repeat offenders, the 7-deadly sign guys, this doesn't apply to them,” said Harris.
The Augusta YDC has made headlines numerous times. Back in November 2011, an inmate here, Jade Holder, was killed. Last October, 5 inmates escaped from this facility. So we took our concerns to the DJJ and asked them what's being done to prevent these types of violations. We also asked to tour the facility but they denied our request on more than one occasion.
“Could this have prevented Jade Holder's death? asked Archith Seshadri.”
“Yes, this could have been avoided,” replied Harris.
“It is a different world in there. It's not the same world out here. You have to be proactive because these kids can re offend anytime,” said Harris.
“They can manage violent offenders and not put everyone in the bucket. It will save us money and time,” said Harris.
The new juvenile justice reform laws go into effect January of 2014.
Governor Deal signed a similar bill into last year with the Department of Corrections.