The changes are designed to steer more nonviolent offenders into community based programs rather than jail or prison.
The redesign would place a greater emphasis on access to drug treatment and mental health counseling. Some residential programs still would involve confinement, but differ from adult short-term jails and long-term prisons. Legislators also approved $5 million for grants to help communities build or expand programs to help nonviolent offenders.
Jailing fewer offenders is projected to save about $85 million over five years. Georgia spends about $90,000 per year on each incarcerated minor.
Earlier in his term, Deal signed significant changes for the adult criminal justice system. He said Thursday that he hopes both laws become part of his legacy.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.