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Criminal Justice


Dianne A. Williams


The laws, policies, and rehabilitation programs of Georgia’s juvenile justice system need to be revisited, especially given the documented rates of recidivism of African American male juveniles in southwest Georgia. The primary purpose of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate youthful offenders and to ensure that recidivism, defined as 3 or more arrests within 3 years after release, does not occur. Data have suggested that corrective behavior sanctions, rehabilitation programs, and lenient sentencing have escalated African American male juvenile recidivism rates, particularly in Dougherty and Tift Counties, Georgia. The purpose of this qualitative methodological study was to explore the perceptions and current experiences with Georgia’s laws, policies, and rehabilitation programs of a representative sample population from these counties. Studying the lived experiences of the 24 participants suggested changes to current programs and guidelines that could reduce the number of recidivist cases among African American male juveniles. The theoretical framework supported a general qualitative study. The research questions specifically examined the effects of the 2013 Juvenile Reform Act (Ga. HB-242) on the lived experiences of African American male juvenile ex-offenders, who were older than 18 years but younger than 40 years, when seeking employment, education, and housing after incarceration. Data from interviews, ratings, and evaluations were coded and categorized for thematic analysis. The implications of this research are far reaching and can be used to position social change that will help revamp laws, policies, and rehabilitation programs that may reduce recidivism rates of African American male juvenile offenders in southwest Georgia.