JJIE News Story: Georgia's First Lady, State DJJ Commissioner Attend Opening of New JJIE/Youth Today Office DJJ Staff  at:  2/28/2013  

JJIE News Story:Georgia’s First Lady, State DJJ Commissioner Attend Opening of New JJIE/Youth Today Office

News Story Written by JJIE's James Swift/ Photos by Jim Shuler

On Wednesday, February 27th, the Center for Sustainable Journalism, which publishes the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange and Youth Today, celebrated the opening of its new Kennesaw, Ga. office in a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring Georgia first lady Sandra Deal and Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery Niles.

Initially founded in 2009 with the aid of a Harnisch Foundation grant, the Center for Sustainable Journalism (CSJ) began as a venue for experimenting with public affairs journalism” according to CSJ Executive Director Leonard Witt.

“Mainstream journalists are cutting back, no one is covering important issues,” he said. “Our important issue is juvenile justice.”

The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE) launched in 2010. Originally, Witt said, the site was intended to focus on Georgia juvenile justice-related news, but “lo and behold, there was a national interest in it.” Two years after the site went live, JJIE is attracting a quarter million visitors a year, tallying nearly 500,000 page views annually. The CSJ umbrella expanded further in 2012, when the organization acquired Youth Today, the nation’s premier trade magazine for youth service workers.

Now employing half a dozen full-time employees and numerous student workers and freelancers, Witt said that the center had quickly outgrown its former place of residency at Kennesaw State University’s Social Science Building.

The Center’s new home, a fully renovated warehouse space, was designed by Heery International’s Atlanta branch office.

“The main thing we started with was the actual methodology of the department itself and the basis that they were really keeping professional journalism as an honest profession,” said Heery International interior designer Lydia O’Neal.

Witt said the open design of the office reflected a new “digital era” in journalism, with an emphasis on giving people space to collaborate on projects.

Kennesaw state University President Daniel Papp said the opening of the new offices was a “hallmark” moment for both the CSJ and the university.

A free and open society needs a free, vibrant and open press, Papp said, “to shine a light on critical issues that are too often ignored and give a voice to the disenfranchised.

“The Center for Sustainable Journalism’s mission is to ensure that important public affairs journalism continues to have a place in our democracy as cuts and funding for mainstream media lead to less coverage of important issues, like juvenile justice,” Papp said.

Sandra Deal, wife of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, said the stories published by JJIE and Youth Today, could have major policy and systemic implications not only in Georgia, but also across the nation.

“You all are going to collect that information and disseminate it to people all over the United States so we can learn from best practices,” Deal said. “By sharing this information we improve the lives of all our children and that’s our goal in the first place.”

Georgia DJJ Commissioner Avery Niles said the dissemination of information regarding juvenile justice issues was similarly important.

“The more information we can put out there in the exchange … the more people are familiar with the issues that face the youth, that face the criminal justice system,” he said. “I think the more we can put out there, the better off we are.”

Witt believes the relocation ushers in a new era for the Center and its publications.

By partnering with the MacArthur Foundation, he said, the JJIE will soon become a more robust website which will include “deeper pathways to knowledge,” such as toolkits and research.

“I’ve always want to be the go-to place for juvenile justice and youth service,” Witt stated. “We’re going to have news now, [which] we’ve always had, and really great commentary from people like Judge Steve Teske and Michelle Barclay. And now, we’re going to have this deeper research.”




     Georgia's Children's Cabinet: Juvenile Justice Monthly Wrap-Up DJJ Staff  at:  2/27/2013  

Georgia's Children's Cabinet: Juvenile Justice Monthly Wrap-Up

To highlight Juvenile Justice Month, the Georgia Children's Cabinet visited multiple sites dedicated to serving, rehabilitating and supporting our juvenile offenders across the state throughout February. The Cabinet chose to tour juvenile justice focused sites to support the Governor and First Lady's vision of seeing improvements in the juvenile justice system.

The Children's Cabinet's first visit of the month was the Gainesville Regional Youth Detention Center in Gainesville, GA. During the tour First Lady Deal, Commissioner Avery Niles (Department of Juvenile Justice-DJJ) and Executive Director of the Governor's Office for Children and Families (GOCF), Katie Jo Ballard, had the opportunity to speak with the center's administrators, teachers and students. The Department of Juvenile Justice provides a variety of services including: education, individual guidance and counseling, and medical services during the youth's short stay at each Regional detention center.

The next stop on the Children's Cabinet Juvenile Justice Tour led to Newton County. GOCF provides funding to support an evening reporting center for the Newton County Juvenile Court to utilize. This program is designed to divert youth from detention centers and provide them with community supports. The First Lady and Cabinet members had the opportunity to visit with youth and their families whom had graduated from the alternative programs. "Thank you for sharing your stories, and connecting us back to the reason we are all here" said director Ballard.

The Department of Juvenile Justice also oversees the detention centers across the State; these are long term confinement facilities. The Cabinet toured the Atlanta Youth Development Center (YDC) that opened in April of 2012. The programming provides a foundation that challenges youth and provides the necessary skills to allow them to re-enter the community successful. During the tour, the First Lady and the Cabinet members toured the facilities and interacted with students.

The Georgia Children's Cabinet would like to thank all those who took part in making Juvenile Justice Month a success. A special thank you goes out to First Lady Sandra Deal, for her dedication to Juvenile Justice reform in the State of Georgia.

Next month the Children's Cabinet will focus on the First Lady's Read Across Georgia campaign. The month will kick off with a press conference from the steps of the Capitol on March 4th.

Read more at:







     GEORGIA'S FIRST LADY VISITS ATLANTA YDC: Georgia Children's Cabinet highlights juvenile justice in February DJJ Staff  at:  2/21/2013  


Georgia Children’s Cabinet highlights juvenile justice in February.

By DJJ Communications Director Jim Shuler/Photographs by Janssen Robinson

Georgia’s First Lady Sandra Deal made a visit to DJJ’s new Atlanta Youth Development Campus (YDC) in College Park Tuesday. The official stopover was part of the First Lady’s month-long schedule of fact-finding visits throughout the state to observe programs designed to educate and prevent at-risk youth from becoming juvenile offenders.

Mrs. Deal and several members of the Georgia Children’s Cabinet were greeted by Atlanta YDC Director Sharon Shaver for a tour of DJJ’s newest secure facility which opened in April 2012. Mrs. Deal spoke with administrators, teachers and students at the YDC. The center can house up to 80 juvenile males in state custody for criminal offenses.

As the First Lady visited the YDC’s high school classrooms, the former teacher spoke to youth in custody about the importance of their continuing education.

“The first thing you have to do is get your GED while you’re here. No one can do it for you,” she said. “It’s important to have that GED. You’ll be ahead of people who don’t have it. When you get out, you cannot get a job without it.”

DJJ Commissioner Avery Niles hosted the visitors from the First Lady’s Children’s Cabinet on their tour of the Atlanta YDC’s facility and educational services. Commissioner Niles is also Superintendent of DJJ’s statewide school system. Behind double steel doors and razor wire fences, DJJ runs the second largest school district in Georgia.

“As educators at Georgia’s 181st school district, we have a constant responsibility to ensure these young offenders have daily access to a quality education and that they leave our facilities better schooled than when they came into our custody,” said Commissioner Niles. “We want to make sure every child has a chance.”

The Atlanta YDC is one of seven long-term detention facilities operated by the State of Georgia to provide secure care, supervision and treatment services to youth committed to the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice.

“While you have a chance, take advantage of the opportunities here,” Mrs. Deal told students in the GED class. “All of the things you’re learning here will help you out and we hope you won’t come back,” the First Lady said.

Mrs. Deal and several members of the Georgia Children’s Cabinet are highlighting Georgia juvenile justice during the month of February. Their field of focus includes facilities which target the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders.

Georgia’s First Lady shared frank advice with the young offenders. “You’re going to have to work twice as hard when you get out because you made a bad choice and got caught,” she said.

Mrs. Deal encouraged the juvenile detainees to think about the choices they will make when they eventually return home and how they can also help prevent their friends and family from making the kinds of poor decisions that can last a lifetime. “You’re paying the price early and hopefully you’ll just pay it once and move on,” she said.

Commissioner Niles told visitors the mission of DJJ’s Youth Development Campuses is to provide the kinds of programs that will challenge Georgia’s youth and prepare them for successful return to their communities.

“What you’re studying here will make a difference,” Mrs. Deal told this group of YDC students. “I hope you’ll find better jobs,” she said. “We’ll be so proud of you!”




     Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month: Macon Forum on February 26th DJJ Staff  at:  2/20/2013  
Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month: Macon Forum on February 26th

As part of the Department of Juvenile Justice’s commitment to reducing youth crime, the Office of Victim Services is proud to work with community groups and agencies to promote safety and security for all Georgia teens.

On February 26th,  there will be a Teen Dating Violence Forum in Macon to help promote February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.  Sponsored by the Central Georgia Council, this informative and fun event will take place at the Buck Melton Community Center starting at 6 p.m. at 150 Sessions Drive in Macon.  All girls ages 13-18 are invited to attend and parents are welcome.  This is a free event and dinner will be provided along with door prizes.

For more information and to attend, please call 478-745-9292 by February 22nd.  

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     Columbus Career Expo and DJJ: February 2013 DJJ Staff  at:  2/18/2013  

On February 14th, members of the Department of Juvenile Justice Aaron Cohn RYDC and Muscogee YDC participated in the Columbus Career Expo to recruit new members to the DJJ Team. Over 147 potential applicants visited the DJJ station and over 70 job applications were collected for distribution the the Aaron Cohn RYDC and Muscogee YDC facilities.

Special thanks to everyone who participated including Muscogee YDC Sergeant Torrian Allen, SMRT Lieutenant Maurice Colson, Aaron Cohn RDC Sergeant Dempson Allen, Captain John Banks from the Muscogee YDC, and Aaron Cohn RYDC Education Specialist Lear Whitaker.





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