Governor Deal Signs Criminal Justice Reform Bill DJJ Staff  at:  4/27/2016  

Deal: Bill makes ‘great strides’ in advancing criminal justice reforms

News Release from Georgia Governor Nathan Deal's Communications Team (Jen Talaber Ryan and Alyssa Botts)

Gov. Nathan Deal today at a press conference signed SB 367, legislation that provides for comprehensive reform for offenders entering, proceeding through and leaving the criminal justice system, into law. This legislation, which is based on recommendations from the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform, builds upon Deal’s previous criminal justice reform initiatives.

“This legislation is the latest step in advancing our criminal justice reforms,” Deal said. “Along with restoring the original intent of the First Offender Act, this bill increases access to charter schools in our prison system and seeks to address the ‘school to prison pipeline.’ If a minor enters the corrections system and is sent to a youth detention center, even just once, they are significantly more likely to offend again. We need to divert these children from a life of imprisonment and difficulty in order for them to lead a successful life. This bill makes great strides in reducing our recidivism rates, ensuring safer communities and expanding our accountability court system. The incentives included in this legislation are cost-effective strategies that will increase the number of former offenders returning to the workforce and supporting their families.”

According to the Georgia Department of Corrections, as a result of the reforms previously passed by the legislature, Georgia’s overall prison population has decreased to roughly 53,800 inmates as of March 31. The percentage of those incarcerated for a non-violent first offense has significantly dropped, and prison beds are now reserved for violent criminals.

Among other initiatives, this legislation:
• Restores the intent of the First Offender Act, updating the process for the 21st century to ensure that cases are properly closed upon completion of sentences
• Codifies Georgia’s accountability courts in order to grant them the authority they need to efficiently administer justice to those under their purview
• Restricts secure detention for all youth ages 13 and under, except for those charged with the most egregious of offenses where a clear public safety issue exists
• Adjusts public school disruption statutes so that students are appropriately handled through the disciplinary process rather than sent to a youth detention center or delinquent facility
• Removes the lifetime ban on food stamp eligibility after a felony drug conviction, subject to the successful completion of their sentence and probation
• Extends parole eligibility to non-violent recidivist drug offenders, allowing them the needed transition period for proper reentry upon completion of their sentences
• Furthers last year’s executive order “banning the box” for most state government jobs, now expanding to licensure applications

To view a portion of the bill signing ceremony, click on




     National Crime Victims' Rights Week in Dougherty County DJJ Staff  at:  4/26/2016  

National Crime Victims' Rights Week in Dougherty County

Story support from Dougherty CSO Juvenile Program Manager Christina Foster

During National Crime Victims' Rights Week, employees from the Dougherty County Community Services Office showed their support through their participation in two major local events: the Dougherty County Wreath Proclamation Ceremony and the Darton State College Commemoration. The theme of this year's National Crime Victims' Rights Week was Serving Victims. Building Trust. Restoring Hope which underscores the importance of early intervention and victim services in establishing trust with victims, which in turn begins to restore their hope for healing and recovery.

The wreath from the Wreath Proclamation Ceremony in Dougherty County

Dougherty CSO and HITS Group Members(From left-right: PO2 Wanda Pride, PA Kenshay Snead, PA Torsha Linnear, PA Annette Brown, and JPM Christina Foster)

At the Dougherty County Wreath Proclamation Ceremony, members of local law enforcement agencies, victim advocacy groups, prosecutor's offices, and other service providers joined together to honor victims in southwest Georgia. After a reading of an official proclamation declaring support for National Crime Victims' Rights Week from Mayor Dorothy Hubbard of Albany and Dougherty County Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas, representatives from groups across the region pinned carnations on a memorial wreath in solidarity and support for crime victims.

JPM Foster pinning the flower on the wreath on behalf of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice in honor of victims in Georgia

Mayor Dorothy Hubbard (left) and Dougherty County Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas reading the National Crime Victims' Rights Week proclamation

At the Darton State College National Crime Victims' Rights Week Commemoration, police from Albany State University, Darton State College, and Albany Technical College presented safety tips to help people help themselves to keep from becoming victims of crime. Simple steps and choices such as being aware of your surroundings and avoiding badly lighted areas when walking or traveling can help reduce the chances that one will become a victim of physical attacks.

Albany Technical College Lt. Hill speaking at Darton State College regarding campus safety tips

Albany State University Police Lt. Gantze speaking at Darton State College about victim support

(Back row left to right) Lt. Gantze -ASU police, PA Anesia Oliver- Albany RYDC, PO 1 Terry Orange -Dougherty HITS, Chief Brackins -Darton Police, Lt. Hill -Albany Tech Police. (Front row left to right) PO 1 Tamara George- Dougherty HITS, JPM Christina Foster- Dougherty CSO, Asst. Director Tara Fields- Albany RYDC, and JPPS 2 Afiya Askew- Dougherty CSO

Darton State College Police Chief Brackins speaks during National Crime Victims' Rights Week

To learn more about supporting the victims of crime, visit




     Georgia Preparatory Academy Schools Earn Reaccreditation DJJ Staff  at:  4/26/2016  

Georgia Preparatory Academy Schools Earn Reaccreditation

Commissioner Avery D. Niles is pleased to announce the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice has successfully completed the ‘AdvancED’ school system accreditation process. Completion of the 2016 ‘AdvancED’ statewide evaluation means DJJ’s Georgia Preparatory Academy measures-up with thousands of other accredited school systems around the world that are similarly committed to increase student learning with a focus on future sustainable improvement.

“I want to extend my congratulations to our Georgia Preparatory Academy Schools,” said Commissioner Niles. “The accreditation process is an evaluation of our school district; however the successful completion of this evaluation process represents an agency-wide team effort.”

‘AdvancED’ Lead Evaluator, Dr. Vicki DeMao, announced the successful evaluation results at an external review exit report for the April DJJ Board Meeting. “DJJ earns the distinction of accreditation by AdvancED,” Dr. DeMao announced. “This evaluation is a rigorous process. The External Review Team congratulates you on your efforts to improve the quality of your education and your are to be commended.”

The ‘AdvancED’ accreditation institution was previously known as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, or ‘SACS’. A 2006 merger of ‘SACS’ and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA CASI) resulted in the newly formed ‘AdvancED’ accreditation institution.

The independent Review Teams conducted a 4-day statewide reaccreditation process inspecting Georgia Preparatory Academy schools in DJJ’s long-term Youth Development Campuses, short-term DJJ Regional Youth Detention Centers, and DJJ Educational Transition Centers.

As Commissioner and School Superintendent, Commissioner Niles congratulated all DJJ divisions for their teamwork. “During the site visits we witnessed all our staff working together to ensure we maintained our accreditation,” the Commissioner said. “I am proud every division understood the importance of this process and would not settle for anything less than reaccreditation.”

‘AdvancED’ Lead Evaluator, Dr. Vicki DeMao told DJJ Board Members, “You are to be congratulated for taking risks and having people come in here from the outside to evaluate your process -- Having outside eyes to look into the DJJ Education organization.”

To get a well-rounded perspective of Georgia Preparatory Academy operations, the inspection teams conducted a total of 129 interviews including eleven School Board Members, 26 school and Central Office administrators, 22 teachers, 14 support personnel, 28 parents and community stakeholders, and 26 students.

Board Chair Elaine Snow told DJJ Education staff, “We appreciate your commitment to the youth, making certain they get the education they need. You truly make a difference in their lives. Excellent Job! We’re proud of you!”

DJJ Associate School Superintendent Audrey Armistad said, “I truly understand what they do to make this work. I also appreciate the Board coming in to be a part of this evaluation process.”

Review Team site visits focused on ‘impact of teaching and learning’, ‘education leadership’, and ‘school system use of resources’. What the Lead Evaluator reported finding was Georgia Preparatory Academy leadership and staff displaying, “an outstanding level of caring and support for students,” and “a high level of communication across the system.”

Board Secretary Adam Kennedy congratulated the DJJ Education Team for a successful reaccreditation effort. “Your hard work has paid off,” said Mr. Kennedy. “Thank you for the work you do every day – the teachers at our facilities and everyone from the Central Office Education Division.”

Commissioner Niles told Associate School Superintendent Audrey Armistad, “I just want to thank you for your willingness to pilot this ship and to make the Georgia Preparatory Academy one of the best. There are not many agencies that choose to go through this vigorous process.”

As the agency progresses into another year of Georgia Juvenile Justice Reform, DJJ continues to employ and recruit professionally certified, highly qualified and motivated teachers to ensure the Department is operating in compliance with those reforms. It builds positive new learning experiences and provides educational platforms for all youth committed to juvenile secure confinement.

“We will continue to ensure through our work and commitment that we focus on “changing the lives of our youth through quality education,” said Commissioner Niles.




     Crime Victims' Rights Week and the Decatur CSO DJJ Staff  at:  4/21/2016  

Crime Victims' Rights Week and the Decatur CSO

Special thanks to JPM Curlie Williams for the story support

With observances in communities across the country, it is easy to see the global importance of National Crime Victims' Rights Week; a single crime can lead to a ripple which can negatively affect large numbers of people in families and communities across the world. From an emotional and economic standpoint, strain and hardship often follow crime, making it important to support crime victims as they move beyond the direct impact of the act.

For the Department of Juvenile Justice, National Crime Victims' Rights Week takes on a special and personal meaning both for the local communities that DJJ serves as well as the aftermath for victims and perpetrators. Crime is not an abstract concept in Georgia communities, but rather something that is all too real and common. With the recent Juvenile Justice Reform, DJJ is taking up the fight to reduce youth recidivism and, by extension, reducing the number of victims of youth crime.

For the Decatur Customer Services Office (Decatur CSO) in District Ten, this desire to reduce crime and support the victims of crime is shared by many people and groups in the Southwest Region. Staff, community members, and well-wishers from The Oak House Abuse Prevention Center, the Decatur District Attorney's Office, the Decatur County Sheriff's Office, Bainbridge Police Department, and Department of Family and Children Services, joined members of the Decatur CSO/HITS staff in observance of Crime Victims' Rights Week and Child Abuse Prevention Month in Bainbridge. Over one hundred ballons were released in Willis Park to honor the local victims of crime and child abuse in the area. Speakers at the observance spoke on the positive direction being made to reduce crime and provide support for the victims of crime.

The Department of Juvenile Justice honors crime victims and the volunteer supporters during National Crime Victims' Rights Week. To learn more about the program, visit




     DJJ and the Working Wonders Day Awards Luncheon: 2016 Spirit of State Use Award DJJ Staff  at:  4/19/2016  

DJJ and the Working Wonders Day Awards Luncheon: 2016 Spirit of State Use Award

Special thanks to DJJ Agency Procurement Officer Catherine Ice for the story support

Recently, Georgia Enterprises for Products and Services (GEPS) held its 13th Annual Working Wonders Day Award Luncheon at the Sloppy Floyd Government Building in Atlanta. The Department of Juvenile Justice is proud to announce that Donna Lawrence, AOC II, was presented the 2016 Spirit of State Award.

The Working Wonders Day Awards celebrates five individuals with disabilities who have benefited either from working in the State Use Program or from working for one of GEPS Certified Providers or purchasers of GEPS products or services. Ms. Lawrence was nominated for the Spirit of the State Award by an individual from the GEPS Customer Service Department for her daily exemplary work and customer service.

Charles Smith, GEPS State Use Council Chairman; Donna Lawrence, DJJ AOC II, District 1 and Lisa Eason, Deputy Commissioner DOAS

Georgia Enterprises partners with governmental agencies (state, city, county, and schools) in order to provide high quality services and products. Under the State Use Law (O.C.G.A 50-5-135), Georgia Enterprises is able to provide increased employment opportunities to Georgians with disabilities. Rehabilitation programs throughout the state employ and train persons with disabilities to produce products and services at a fair market price. Georgia Enterprises and the State Use Law strive for an improved Georgia – cost effective purchasing options that help individuals with disabilities achieve success and empowerment, prove their independence and become contributing members of the local community. To learn more about GEPS, visit




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