Today at the Dalton youth detention center, Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law House Bill 242, landmark legislation that will improve Georgia's juvenile justice system through innovative practices and methods proven to yield positive results.
"This morning marks a milestone in my first term as governor," said Deal. "I hope that, years from now, my cumulative work with the legislature and others on justice reform will prove to be one of the rocks in my administration's Stonehenge, standing the test of time. First, we tackled the criminal justice system together. Then, last week, I signed into law the sequel to our adult justice reforms, making our criminal justice system even more effective and efficient.
"Now, we have helped the juvenile justice system. We acted because Georgia could not afford its own numbers. Not when we have more than half of all youth offenders ending up back in a detention center or prison within three years. Not when we have each youth in a detention center costing Georgia's taxpayers $90,000 or more every year and not when 40 percent of juveniles in detention facilities are considered a low risk to reoffend. We worked hard and we found ways to keep low-risk offenders out of detention centers and save taxpayer dollars, nearly $85 million over five years, while also eliminating the need for two new facilities. We did all this while not only maintaining but improving public safety."
The legislation designates $5 million to create a voluntary grant program that gives communities incentives to offer judges more nonconfinement sentencing options. These could include substance abuse treatment or family counseling and are proven to better reduce recidivism for low-risk offenders. HB 242 will also allow judges to take into account both the severity of the offense and the risk of the individual when deciding the fate of juveniles, focus more time and resources on high-risk and dangerous offenders, and measure risk and results properly to keep as many of our juveniles as possible out of detention centers and prisons
"Certainly, we want to see more of Georgia's nonviolent young offenders who have made mistakes get their lives back together and re-enter society as productive citizens," he said. "If we address the issues early on, perhaps we can successfully divert them from wasting much of their adult years sleeping on expensive prison beds. This new law will help us make a better Georgia for all of us."
Later, at the Colonnade in Ringgold, Deal signed House Bill 178, the Georgia Pain Management Clinic Act, legislation that creates a licensure process for pain management clinics operating in Georgia. The Georgia Composite Medical Board will be responsible for the licensing and regulation of pain management clinics and will establish minimum standards for prescribing controlled substances.
"When our state goes from housing 10 pain management clinics to 125 in just three years, we must do something to ensure the continued safety of our citizens," Deal said. "We know this process works, because we can observe the successes that have happened around us. When Florida enacted tougher laws, the number of pain clinics there dropped dramatically, as did deaths from oxycodone and hydrocodone. I hope to see similar results in Georgia."
HB 178 requires that all pain management clinics operating in Georgia must be licensed by the board by July 1, 2013, and must renew biennially. Under new law, the board may deny, suspend and revoke licenses if the board finds that the licensee or a physician practicing at a licensed pain management clinic has:
-Furnished false information on the application
-Been convicted of a crime under any state or federal law relating to controlled substances
-Had their federal registration to prescribe, dispense or distribute suspended or revoked
-Violated any provisions of this act
All pain management clinics that dispense controlled substances or dangerous drugs must be registered with the Georgia State Board of Pharmacy, and any person who operates a pain management clinic without a license shall be guilty of a felony.