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Top Ga. judge calls for reform of juvenile system

ATLANTA (AP) -- The state's top judge says Georgia should overhaul its juvenile justice system, as lawmakers turn their focus to criminal courts for adult offenders.

Chief Justice Carol Hunstein of the state Supreme Court told the General Assembly on Wednesday that putting nonviolent youth offenders into juvenile prisons does not protect the public and makes those children more likely to commit crimes as adults.

She said nearly two-thirds of the more than 10,000 young people behind bars have substance abuse problems. More than one-third have been diagnosed with mental health problems.

Hunstein said she supported proposals from Gov. Nathan Deal and state lawmakers to create alternative courts focused on treating adult addicts and military veterans. But she said similar changes must also be made to the juvenile justice system.