Augusta city leaders throw support behind new juvenile law

AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - Georgia's juvenile law hasn't been updated in 40 years; but with the start of the new year the state will have a new juvenile code.

As the owner of Fresh Start Learning Center in Augusta, Andrena Meyers cares for 30 youth.

She says several of the children she works with, as well as her own son, have been in and out of courtrooms.

"If this is where we're going in the right direction, I'm for it," she said.

Fox54's Mark Barber asked, "Do you think this is the right direction?" Meyers said, "I don't know yet, January 1, 2014 when the bill is effective we'll see."

Pam Doumar, a Richmond County judge, has decided hundreds of juvenile cases in her courtroom.

"It's a vicious cycle, where they come in the doors and they get into more and more trouble because there's a lack of supervision, they don't have a mentor," she said.

She says her goal isn't to punish juvenile offenders but to rehabilitate them and she thinks the new law, House Bill 242, will help her do that.

The new code won't let parents waive their child's right to an attorney or their right to be heard.

For serious offenses, judges will be given more freedom to decide what action to take with the juvenile.

For offenses such as truancy and running away from home, juvenile offenders will be paired with programs and resources.

Georgia Commissioner of Juvenile Justice Avery Niles thinks the focus on resources and involved families will develop offenders into productive members of society.

"With the right programming, with the right aid, to better those kids and get them ready for the community that's a success," he said.

Meyers says with the futures of many youth on the line she's hoping the new law will be a success.

"When it becomes effective and it's working, I'm on board," she said.

Niles says if the intervention programs are successful, the economy stands to benefit because it costs about $90,000 to house a juvenile offender.