The 21-member panel that radically overhauled adult sentencing in the last legislative session is proposing equally dramatic changes for lawmakers to consider when they convene in January.
The main difference is that troublemaking minors will be sentenced based, not on what they did, but on the chances they could break the law again in the future.
It's an approach that Ohio pioneered and that Texas instituted five years ago in reaction to a scandal.
Georgia's juvenile-justice system hasn't suffered the same kind of turmoil the Lone Star State experienced. However, there was an instance last November in which a teen-aged inmate in the Youth Development Center in Augusta died, allegedly after being attacked by another juvenile.
It was the only death in any of the state's 20 facilities run by the Department of Juvenile Justice. Investigations there led to a staff house cleaning, and inspections at the other facilities led to additional firings around the state.
"It's not something the council has looked at," said Jason Newman, a public-safety policy analyst with the Pew Center on the States, a Washington-based foundation that provided research and recommendations to the council.
While the Juvenile Justice Department undertook internal reforms, the council's goal was to consider improvements to the sentencing that would reduce the rate at which juveniles are arrested for new crimes after release and ways to save taxpayers money.
The reforms used in Ohio and Texas did both.
The first step is changing laws to give judges discretion to hand down different sentences to similar cases. It means repealing mandatory sentences written into the law over the years by politicians frustrated by what they considered to be lenient judges.
"I think it's a few judges," said commission chairman Mike Boggs, a former legislator and Waycross judge who now sits on the Georgia Court of Appeals. "I'm an ardent supporter of restoring judicial discretion."
Most judges are. They argue that no two offenders are the same even if they committed the same crime.
Next the commission recommends that judges base their sentences on the likelihood each juvenile will commit another crime. Those with a low risk would stay in their homes, report regularly to a supervising probation officer and attend counseling sessions.
Those with a high risk would get locked up.
So, the council offers several recommendations about how to assess those risks and keep track of the outcome so the assessment questionnaires can be fine tuned and updated.
Boggs acknowledges that the assessment and the judges will make some mistakes. Parents and victims could become upset if the wrong kid gets locked up or one that turns out to be violent gets set free.
"Any expected criticism just comes with the territory," he said. "You're ultimately going to have to rely on judges to use those risk-assessment tools."
Georgia taxpayers spend about $300 million a year on the Department of Juvenile Justice plus what pays for the judges, courts and prosecutors. That figure hasn't changed much even as tight budgets after the recession forced deep cuts to other parts of state government.
Each of the beds in the department's secure facilities costs $29,000 a year while the most security beds take a whopping $91,000.
But the majority of kids locked up are there for misdemeanors, and most are considered low risk.
So, letting the low-risk kids stay at home while they're under intense supervision and counseling should save millions of dollars and allow the state to concentrate on the remaining hard-core offenders, Boggs said.
"We know that they are going to be served better in these community-based programs and you get a better outcomes," he said.
Ironically, statistics show that the longer kids are locked up in the system who start out as low risks, the higher the risks become that they'll get back into legal trouble, according to Newman. On the other hand, the system does a better job with the high risk offenders, so concentrating on them will lower the crime rate.
The commission recommends that half of the money saved closing unneeded lock-up facilities be given to counties to run local probation and counseling programs. Boggs predicted that many would contract out to private companies or community service boards that already provide treatment to addicts and the mentally ill.
Of course, he knows it won't be so simple with such a diverse state.
"The challenge in a 159 counties is how do you roll out a delivery system that is uniform and is available in 159 counties," he said.
The commission met Tuesday to agree on the 15 recommendations. It may round them out in its next meeting Dec. 4 and compile its report to the governor and General Assembly at its final meeting Dec. 13.
Part of the council is drafting proposals for ensuring its adult reforms are fully implemented, such as a permanent oversight panel. It's also suggesting revisions to minimum drug sentences and risk assessments of adults before sentencing. The details will be made public at future meetings.