What is the Georgia Youthful Offender Act?

Many younger defendants and their families are concerned that they may enter the prison system if they face prison time. Prison can be a dangerous and unsettling place, especially for teenagers. Unfortunately, a long prison sentence often puts the juvenile offender on the path to further crime rather than rehabilitation.

Faced with these concerns, Georgia passed the Juvenile Offenders Act in 1971, aimed at treating criminal suspects aged 17–24. Pursuant to OCGA Section 42-7-8, the sentencing judge may issue a written recommendation convicting the defendant of juvenile delinquent treatment. While the judge may make this recommendation, the law enforcement agency ultimately evaluates and then makes the decision as to whether the accused will be treated as a “juvenile offender.”

Per OCGA § 42-7-3 Subpart (a): “Juvenile offenders are required to undergo treatment in secure facilities, including training schools, hospitals, farms and forestry and other camps, and including vocational training facilities and other institutions and agencies that provide essential Types of treatment.” Importantly, and as far as possible, the law adds: “Such institutions and facilities shall only be used for the treatment of juvenile offenders who have the potential and desire for rehabilitation under this chapter.”

In principle, young offenders have the opportunity to visit special facilities for their age group with the aim of rehabilitation and qualification. Such programs can make a world of difference for those who want to transform their lives.

What the Juvenile Justice Act is not

Some people may confuse the Juvenile Offenders Act with the First Offenders Act. However, these two laws provide for different things. The First Offender Act does not address opportunities while a defendant is incarcerated. Its purpose – as detailed in a previous blog post – is to protect a first-time offender from a lifelong offense.

The Juvenile Criminal Law Act is also no guarantee that a qualified criminal suspect will be committed to a specific facility or not. As explained above, these decisions are ultimately made by the correctional authority and not by the sentencing judge.

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If you or a loved one is facing prison time, are under the age of 25 and have rehabilitation goals, it is important that your attorney seeks a conviction under the Juvenile Offenders Act to have the best chance of success. Call today for a free consultation.