CONYERS — In just about a month’s time, the Rockdale County Regional Youth Detention will be the primary location for youthful offenders who have been ordered by the juvenile justice system to serve short-term sentences.
By the end of June, the Gwinnett Regional Youth Detention Center will be closed and offenders from the Department of Juvenile Justice service area in Rockdale County and the southern part of Gwinnett County will be assigned to the newly renovated Rockdale facility located on Chambers Drive in Conyers.
The maintenance costs for the 30 year-old Gwinnett facility have forced the DJJ to close the site. The Rockdale RYDC has the capacity to house 52, said Jim Shuler, director of communications for the Department of Juvenile Justice.
He said the current population at Rockdale is less than 10 and all male as they prepare to transfer residents from Gwinnett next month.
A Regional Youth Detention Center, like the Rockdale facility, is for those who have been sentenced to a short-term commitment, Shuler said.
Youth Development Campuses, on the other hand, are where juveniles sentenced to long-term placement.
According to the DJJ website, all youth assigned to the Rockdale RYDC will already have had their cases adjudicated, so the juvenile residents will be from all over the state.
“Once a judge makes the decision to place a youth with DJJ, then we have an intake process, which is rather detailed and comprehensive. It looks at the nature of the crime, the age of the youth, his or her health history. There is a complete evaluation of the youth when he first comes into system” Shuler said.
He said youth are assigned to a located based on a number of variables, including proximity to family.
“We try to house them close to where their family is so that it is as realistic as possible for family members to visit. It’s not always possible, but it is a consideration.”
Shuler said that the new juvenile justice reform law that went into effect in January would have an impact on the types of offenders sent to the RYDC.
“There are less and less minor offenders sent to juvenile justice security facilities. More of them are sent by judges to community programs,” he said. “Part of the intent is so that we don’t have first-time offenders or youth who have committed minor offenses being mixed with multiple offenders or youth who have committed more serious crimes.”
The Rockdale location will be opened as a short-term RYDC facility, but with the programs and capabilities of a Youth Development Campus that provides detailed education and treatment programs of a long-term facility, including top-of-the line education materials and detailed substance abuse programs, Shuler said.
According to the DJJ’s website, youth in custody are given the opportunity to earn a high school diploma from a system accredited by both the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Correctional Education Association (CEA).