MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Toddlers placed their hands in cement during a ceremony for the new Thomas Jackson Juvenile Justice Center Tuesday.
The children were either adopted or in foster care.
Bibb County Juvenile Court Judge Thomas J. Matthews says adults must get involved with young offenders to help them turn their lives around and avoid the cycle of incarceration.
"The best thing is early intervention don't wait until they start offending at age 13 or 14," said Judge Matthews. "Get involved in the family, get strong families and have those families prevent those offenses from occurring years down the road."
The juvenile court judge says they had outgrown their old facility. Thomas Jackson Juvenile Center will be located at 560 Oglethorpe St., in Macon. It is scheduled to open in the summer of 2014.
“We realize years ago that the facilities at the courthouse were just not adequate in many ways it was not safe nor private enough for the juvenile system,” said Judge Matthews.
The new Thomas Jackson Juvenile Justice Center was paid for with Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds and cost $7,000,000.
The new center will house the county's juvenile courts, along with support systems designed to help reduce recidivism rate among child offenders.
"We started a project, there's a group called just children, that began attempting among other things to get a new building," added the judge.
Susanna Patterson is the Executive Director of Central Georgia Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Community Volunteers. CASA volunteers are assigned by the court to children in foster care.
"CASA volunteers give the court accurate details of what is going on in the biological child's home, foster home or group home," said Patterson.
"Currently we have 30 volunteers who are serving less than a third of our children and so we desperately need more volunteers. Those volunteers, are able to pull together the details of these children's lives."
Foster parenting has also proven to be effective in reducing crime among young offenders.
David Barnes and his wife are looking forward to becoming foster parents.
"My wife and I got into it and we just felt like it was something that we needed to do," said Barnes. "We've met people just at random they were foster parents and we had just adopted our son and we thought about expanding our family. It only made sense that we would do it."