DAI Bill is DOA

A bill that would make decisions uniform about incarcerating juvenile offenders will not become law this year.

“I’ll be honest, this bill is not going anywhere,” said Catherine Lottie, legal counsel for the House Judiciary Committee, referring to H.B. 471.

“The governor’s office hasn’t seen it and his people need time to look at it for a number of issues, including how much it will cost the state.”

The measure, sponsored by the committee’s chair, Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) deals with so-called detention assessment instruments  (DAIs), evaluations used by officials that help to determine if a juvenile should be incarcerated or not.

DAIs allow intake officials to assign point values to juveniles who have been arrested. If the intake officer gives the accused a high enough score, the juvenile is detained. If the score does not reach a certain threshold, the accused is either released or put under some supervision, such as a monitoring bracket.

The Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, which uses the form, describes the DAI as an objective instrument, “designed to enhance consistency and equity in the detention decision making process and to ensure that only those juveniles who represent a serious threat to public safety or failure to appear in court are held in secure pre-trial detention.”

Many juvenile justice officials in numerous jurisdictions across the state currently use DAIs, but their use is not required and officials are not obligated to adhere to them.

Lotti added that there was support for the legislation, but that there was also recognition that lawmakers are running out of time to address it. (Crossover day, when pending legislation must pass out of either the House or Senate to have a chance of becoming law) is Wednesday, March 16.

She also said the bill would receive a strong push next year.

“Willard,” she said, “wants to push this.