When I get the opportunity to talk to communities about the need for juvenile code reform and juvenile justices issues generally, the “point system” invariably comes up.  People often express frustration about its outcomes and confusion about why and how it should be used.  What’s known as the “point system” is actually a detention assessment instrument (DAI), a tool used to evaluate each arrested youth to determine the need for secure, locked confinement.

 Currently in Georgia, the DAI is used as a matter of policy and practice, not law.  Judge Teske of Clayton County Juvenile Court advocates using a DAI and writes in this Tuesday’s Atlanta Journal Constitution that he uses it because it is an “objective instrument that removes racial, ethnic and socioeconomic biases” and that “the proper use of the DAI provides that delicate balance between community safety and youth rehabilitation.”

I agree with his reasons for using the DAI.  Kids are detained to protect public safety. However only those who are a risk to public safety need to be detained. A DAI creates uniform, objective, and consistent criteria to determine which kids are a threat to public safety.  This is particularly important now, given that the Department of Juvenile Justice has fewer beds this year than last year.  Shouldn’t the kids that pose the greatest threat to public safety get these beds?