Georgia's zero tolerance policy... a pipeline to prison - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Georgia's zero tolerance policy... a pipeline to prison

By Roslyn Giles  - email | bio

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Georgia State Senator Emanuel Jones wants to remove the ‘zero' out of the state's zero tolerance policy.  Jones says a case involving a 14 year old Morgan County student last October sparked his interested.

"Eli Mahone turned in a two and a half inch fishing knife that his mother inadvertently left in his book bag just 25 minutes after school started. He was arrested and sent to a detention center an hour and a half from his home.  We got involve and got him released the next day.  If that had not happened, he would have spent the entire weekend in jail. He's now charged as a designated felon."

Jones says he wants kids, like Eli, that have devices that are considered weapons and there's no assault involved, a second chance rather being considered a designated felon. The alternative would be a delinquent act and not punishable by sending them off to a youth detention center.

"There are many cases of kids bringing key chains with Tweety Bird on them, many instances of kids doing ‘show and tell' with plastic guns, toy soldier devices that schools consider weapons."

The bill requires judges to hold a hearing before a child is taken into custody.  One local law enforcement officer tends to agree. "There does have to be a certain amount of common sense in the law that gives school administrators and law enforcement time to investigate and we know that not every situation is the same," says Major Randy Robertson, Muscogee County Sheriff's Department.

The Muscogee County School District's policy on toy weapons and real guns are both considered a threat and require the same disciplinary actions.  If Jones has his way, he hopes to change with Senate bill 299.

The bill has made its way through committee.  It cleared the Senate Education Youth Committee yesterday. The next step is for the bill to pass the senate.



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