Low teenager turnout for DJJ town hall meeting

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News 12 11pm/ Monday October 14, 2013


Augusta, Ga (WRDW)---- Parents, community members, and grandparents--- all asking questions about the new way Department of Juvenile Justice will lock kids up and how the law will affect parents.

"Will any of these kind of forums be held where parents will be brought in," asked one person at the meeting.

The new law takes effect in 2014 focusing on mental health and substance abuse issues first, instead of automatically putting young people behind bars. The consequences might be serious, but for the young people there it was a struggle to stay awake.

"Well really it was kind of boring, but there were some moments when I understood what they were talking about," said Christopher Darlington.

Darlington came with his grandfather and says the main thing he'll take away is that kids now will get extra help, so their future can't be wrecked by misdemeanor crimes. He didn't speak up Monday night, but did have this question.

"Say the police does stop me, but I haven't done anything wrong...I wouldn't know and I want to know my rights," he told News12.

We took that concern to Commissioner Niles who gave it a pass.

"Well, that's why we have the sheriff here and I think he answered that question," Niles told News12.

The Richmond County Sheriff put it like this when talking to the crowd.

"A juvenile has the same rights as an adult. Just because of your age you don't lose you constitutional rights," he told the group,

The law says an officer can't stop and question you unless you've broken a law or there's a justified suspicion. And as far as Monday night's turn-out goes the commish says it's not just about the numbers.

"If we have one kid here it's a success. It's what we do--making sure that the messages get out," he said,

It cost about 91,000 dollars a year to jail a juvenile in Georgia, but with the new law the state is hoping that number will fall, because the focus will be on mental health, substance abuse treatment, and community based programs instead of jail.

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