The legislation, based on recommendations of a special panel convened by Gov. Nathan Deal, is designed to provide judges with greater discretion in sentencing youth offenders and reduce overall costs within the juvenile justice system. The bill passed unanimously on Thursday.
Supporters of the legislation say the reforms will allow Georgia to focus on treating the underlying causes of criminal behavior rather than an emphasis on locking up non-violent offenders.
They point to the fact that Georgia spends more than $90,000 a year on each youth offender behind bars and say 65 percent who are released end up back in jail within three years.