The Times, Gainesville, Ga., on ensuring true justice for state's young offenders: Georgia ranks among the states with the highest percentage of its population currently behind bars, which is good news or bad news, depending on your perspective.
It’s good news if you believe catching and punishing more criminals is the answer to keeping our communities safer. It’s bad news if you consider a higher incarcerated population a sign of skewed justice and misplaced priorities. But when we’re talking about youthful offenders, it’s clear the fewer who are exposed to the corrections system, the better.
And we also should agree that those who occupy our prisons and jails need to be kept safe from abuse of any kind. If a civilized population believes criminals should be kept out of mainstream society for the good of all, it also should protect their basic rights while they are wards of the state. That goes double for juveniles who still may have much of their lives ahead of them when their time is done.
And on this, Georgia is failing badly.
It was recently learned that four juvenile detention centers in Georgia ranked among the 13 worst in the country for highest rates of alleged sexual misconduct. The 2012 National Survey of Youth in Custody, conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, was based on anonymous surveys completed by 8,707 youth randomly sampled from at least one facility in every state and the District of Columbia.
Nearly 500 inmates responded in Georgia, with more than 15 percent saying they have been victims of sexual abuse.
Juvenile justice already is a challenge for the state. Georgia is one of six states that has seen its number of young detainees drop in recent years, by 52 percent from 1997 to 2010, according to a survey by Annie E. Casey Foundation, a nonprofit youth advocacy group.
Yet some 2,000 young people ages 13 to 21 remain locked up statewide. Most of them are considered nonviolent, and 40 percent are labeled “low-risk.” According to the survey, the state spends some $91,000 per youth offender opposed to $19,000 for each adult prisoner. Despite that, the recidivism rate for such juveniles is an alarming 65 percent.
Strong enforcement of the law and swift, fair justice should be a goal for Georgia and every state. Making sure those who are put into the legal system are kept safe from abuse needs to be a key part of that effort.
The Brunswick (Ga.) News on Internet is useful tool but can be dangerous: If police in this nation had a squad car for every lecherous adult they picked up who tried to entice a child via the Internet to meet some place private, they would need a community the size of Sterling to park them all.
If law enforcement had a squad car for every minor who was almost lured to danger by a degenerate but who was discovered beforehand by a parent or other responsible individual, you would need a city the size of Savannah to park them all, or so the theory goes.
The gist of the matter is this: the Internet can be a useful tool, but it also can be, for the unwary, a family's worst nightmare. Preteens and teens have a cavalier attitude, as we've said before, that nothing bad is ever going to happen to them.
And unfortunately, some teens have ended up DEAD wrong or scarred for life. Parents, monitor what your sons and daughters do. Be careful about allowing them to let a stranger into their lives by going to an unsupervised room of the house to engage in a cyberchat.
There are so many of these sites on the Internet that a child can go most anywhere in cyberspace and chat with most anyone night and day. There is little protection on the Internet itself. Children are asked to type their date of birth in a provided space to ensure that they are at least 18.
They are asked by the hosting website to be truthful and, sometimes, to check a square with a simple click of a computer mouse that they are being honest about their age.
Come on, just how effective is that? That is no guard at all against a curious minor wandering unknowingly into a world of danger. Chat rooms are great hangouts of pedophiles. They, too, can lie about their birth date. Just ask police.
Monitor your children, and make sure the parents of any child whose house they visit are equally as vigilant.
It only takes one slip up to ruin a life. Don’t let the Internet take something precious from you.