Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Juvenile Crime under Fire Headlines of Violence Trigger Tough Bills from Legislators

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Juvenile Crime under Fire Headlines of Violence Trigger Tough Bills from Legislators

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- A Savannah teen is gunned down outside Jenkins High

School by a fellow teenager with a lengthy criminal record.

A father of two is shot dead in front of his family outside an

Atlanta convenience store; the suspect is a 13-year-old known to

the public only as "Little B," but by the system as a 12-time

offender.

The drumbeat of heinous crimes blamed on children has produced

a spate of bills in this year's General Assembly.

Legislators hope to curb what they and their constituents

perceive as a growing trend -- though statistics show a slight

dip in juvenile crime from 1994 to 1995, from 13,350 reported

acts to 13,251.

As legislators rush to react to violent headlines, child

advocates and at least one juvenile court judge question whether

lawmakers are overreacting.

Sen. Eric Johnson, R-Savannah, submitted a bill in response to

Cedric Martin's 1996 slaying at Jenkins High. The measure

demands that superior court officials notify schools when young

felons enroll there.

Rep. Gail Buckner, D-Morrow, has similar legislation requiring

that the courts notify a child's school whenever a child is

convicted -- or in juvenile court, adjudicated delinquent -- for

a second felony.

Just Thursday, a juvenile boot camp bill passed out of the

Senate overwhelmingly, calling for mandatory commitment to a

military-style detention center.

With a hefty price tag of $19.8 million for the boot camps,

children from 10 to 16 years old would have to get a haircut,

wear a uniform and work six days a week for crimes ranging from

vandalism to aggravated assault. It carries a six-month

mandatory sentence.

Child advocates are discouraged by the legislative focus on

teens only after they've been arrested.

"That's always the trend in Georgia, " said Malinda Michael of

Georgians for Children. …

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