Savannah leaders urge state reps to oppose juvenile reform bill - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Savannah officials urge state delegation to oppose juvenile reform bill

Chatham Co. Juvenile Court Chatham Co. Juvenile Court

The Savannah-Chatham Metro police chief, the new Chatham County District Attorney-elect, and Savannah City Council are all focusing their attention on juvenile crime and getting tougher on under-age offenders.

However, concerns have been raised about a new statewide juvenile justice reform bill, and whether or not it is letting juvenile offenders off the hook. 

One part in particular has raised eyebrows.

The proposed bill would cut the number of beds, in half, for juvenile detention centers across the state, including Chatham County's Youth Detention Center.

In a letter to council, Alderman Van Johnson urged the council and their state delegation to oppose the bill. Senator Lester Jackson is already against it.

He calls it a "bad bill" which would make it harder to put felons in juvenile detention and detain runaways. 

"Our number one priority is the safety of the people of this state and being soft on crime, whether you are juvenile or adult, is not what we represent as legislators or the people of this great state," Sen. Jackson said.

WTOC spoke with Effingham County Sheriff Jimmied McDuffie who said his county brings their juveniles to Savannah but the youth detention center doesn't have enough beds as it is, right now. Effingham juveniles are turned away.

Jackson said more money should be spent on juvenile justice, not cut from it's budget.

"When it comes to juveniles who commit crimes, we need to be tough. We need to be giving guidance and we need to focus them on corrective behavior. That can only happen if you put them in an institution for a period of time so they can modify their behavior and become model citizens for this great state," Jackson said.

The bill is sponsored by the Pew Foundation, who McDuffie said helped pass reform this year reserving prison space for the most serious offenders. 

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