Georgians want flexible justice system for minors according to UGA’s Peach State Poll

ATHENS, Ga. – Georgians generally see punishment as the purpose of the criminal justice system but are inclined to favor rehabilitation (60 percent) when the offender is under 18 years of age, according to the latest Peach State Poll.

Poll results clearly indicate that the public supports greater flexibility in the courts when defendants are minors. For example, an overwhelming majority (81 percent) prefers giving judges flexibility when sentencing minors rather than handing down the same mandatory sentences that apply to adult offenders. Georgians also prefer to see minors charged with violent crimes tried in juvenile court (51 percent) as opposed to trying them in the same courts as adults (27 percent).

The Peach State Poll is a statewide quarterly survey of public opinion conducted by the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

Other survey results:

* The general public in Georgia favors the use of capital punishment for convicted murderers, but this support does not extend to cases involving minors as the perpetrator. Sixty percent of the public believes that the courts should not be permitted to impose capital punishment in cases in which a minor is found guilty of murder; only 23 percent of the public say that the court should be permitted to sentence minors to death.

* Forty-six percent of respondents cited poor parenting or dysfunctional family life as the primary cause leading juveniles to commit serious crimes.

* While a plurality (37 percent) holds the child primarily accountable for crimes committed, 29 percent say parents are primarily accountable, and another 15 percent say that the parent and child share responsibility.

* Poll respondents would allocate an average of 47 percent of the budget for juvenile crime on addressing the root causes of juvenile crime and 40 percent, on average, of the budget on more effective law enforcement and prisons.
These data are taken from a Peach State Poll survey conducted between Dec. 13 and Dec. 21, 2002. The poll included 800 telephone interviews of randomly selected adults in Georgia. For a sample of this size, the margin of error at the 95 percent confidence level is +/- 3.5 percent.

The Carl Vinson Institute of Government, a public service and outreach unit of UGA, has as part of its mission to provide policymakers with systematic, objective research to inform policy decisions. In accordance with that mission, the Peach State Poll aims to give voice to the public on important policy matters and issues pertaining to political, social, and economic life in Georgia.

For more information on this survey or other Peach State Poll results, see www.cviog.uga.edu/peachpoll.