17 and a criminal record for life.
I had the pleasure of listening to Former DeKalb County District Attorney J. Tom Morgan twice in the last week speak on how Georgia Laws negatively affect Georgia Teenagers as he outlined the archaic laws that by common sense, should be changed. The laws are detrimental to our youth, they devalue the criminal justice system in the State and are far too costly with no real benefit.
The way our political system works, it takes great courage for one person to push for change as there are worries of being called out as being "soft on crime". Over time the scales of justice tips to the breaking point and then we as a society need to reevaluate; I believe that time is now.
I wish Governor Nathan Deal, Attorney General Sam Olens and the leadership of the Georgia General Assembly were in attendance this evening because if they were; my dream would be that they would form a Blue Ribbon Panel of Experts together with a Special Joint Committee on Georgia Juvenile Justice Reform to use this next session to affect positive changes for the 17 year olds in our society by rolling back some of the laws this State currently has on the books.
If you watch the video at the bottom, former State Senator Dan Weber stood in the well to discuss aspects of the Romeo and Juliet Provision, but he was also crying out for changes to an unjust system and I now see the Former DeKalb County District Attorney, Mr. J. Tom Morgan doing the exact same thing. When you understand that Mr. Morgan has the experience of being forced to put kids away with no option of leniency and that he has the insight of an unjust judicial system, why is nothing more being done?
“There are only four states in the country that treat our teenagers as adults when they’re 17, and Georgia’s one of those four states,” said Morgan, who has spoken to many thousands of teenagers, was on the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect, and chaired Georgia’s Child Abuse Prevention Panel.
“I testified before the Georgia legislature last year about raising that age to 18 to fit with the rest of the country, and I’ll never forget what the legislator said: ‘Oh Mr. Morgan, we can’t do that because we don’t want our constituents in Georgia to think we’re soft on crime.”
Morgan said he represented two girls—one 16, one 17—who together shoplifted less than $100 worth of CDs and DVDs from Target. Because one was lawfully an adult at the time, the crime was on her permanent record, while the 16-year-old didn’t have it on hers.
“You’re criminal history starts on your 17th birthday and stays with you until the day you die,” he said. “Don’t screw it up.” (WestCobb Patch - March 2011)
Someone needs to start listening and instead of talking to just high school students, Mr. Morgan needs to talk to the Legislature one more time, but this time he needs the backing of the powers that be who need to come out in support of such changes.
Governor Deal if you are looking to leave a legacy, I can think of no nobler cause than being the instigator of juvenile criminal reform. Please make it happen.