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Juvenile Justice Faith-based and Community Initiatives

Like most other states, Georgia faces significant challenges in the operation of its juvenile justice system. Unless effective and efficient faith-based and community initiatives are in place to provide critical services to juveniles upon their reentry into society, they may remain in the criminal justice system throughout their lives. The lack of a coordinated approach to reentry and rehabilitation is costly, in terms of both finances and public safety.

In recent years, a great deal of attention has been paid to the concept of "restorative justice."

Restorative justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused or revealed by criminal behavior. It is best accomplished through a cooperative process that includes all stakeholders and which includes:

•    Identifying and taking steps to repair harm,
•    Involving all stakeholders, and
•    Transforming the traditional relationship between communities and their governments in responding to crime.

Georgia Community Foundation's Georgia Juvenile Justice Fund is dedicated to promoting faith-based and community initiatives in cities and counties throughout Georgia that will facilitate restorative justice. It is led by GCF Board members who are experts on matters of juvenile justice, including Karen Baynes, former Fulton County Juvenile Court judge, Georgia Supreme Court Justice Harold Melton, Albert Murray, former Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice and member of the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, and Pastor Dexter Rowland, a former member of the Georgia Board of Juvenile Justice, and GCF Founder, Jim Kelly, a member of the Georgia Board of Juvenile Justice.

In 2012, Jim Kelly and Pastor Dexter Rowland met with Georgia DJJ officials to encourage them to explore ways to involve faith-based and community organizations in helping young people either avoid engaging in unlawful activities that could result in their detention or transition back into their communities upon release from a youth detention facility. As a result of research and advice provided by various members of GCF’s Georgia Juvenile Justice Fund, in June 2012, the Georgia DJJ launched Project FACE, a pilot project designed to enhance faith and community engagement in the Athens and Gainesville, Georgia regions.