Viewpoint: Nonviolent juvenile offenders

State lawmakers are debating a bill that will keep nonviolent juvenile offenders out of youth detention centers, like the one located here in Albany.

Nearly 1,400 juveniles who committed nonviolent offenses were locked up in Georgia last year, at a cost in the millions.

If we can keep kids out of these facilities if they don't really need to be separated from society, the financial savings could be tremendous.

There is also the matter of preventing youngsters who are not yet hardened criminals, or who committed less serious infractions, from be kept with those who may victimize them.

The proposed bill will also make sure that a juvenile offender who turns 18 while serving their time won't go to prison-- with an adult population of hardened criminals.

If the bill becomes law, it will create a new process called Child in Need of Services to oversee juveniles who are considered low or no risk.

We say this is a step in the right direction, and we'd like to see serious debate on the issue.

Unless there's an unforeseen downside, it sounds like a great idea…