There is a tragedy in the making down in Louisiana. An impending crisis is facing the state’s youth.
State’s appropriations bill, HB 1, which allocates funding for all state services, would slash funding to The Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ). Next Monday The Senate Finance committee will vote on it and if it passes, July 1, 2012 will mark a very sad day for juvenile justice.
What’s on the table is the termination of all OJJ contracts with community groups providing services for the Louisiana’s most at-risk youth. In New Orleans there are five organizations that provide these sort of services, and they would all lose state funding. At-risk young people in the state are about to be denied the sort of help that studies show is essential.
New Orleans based activist group Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans lay out exactly what is at stake (emphasis mine):
What does this mean for the youth of our state? It means that the 472 youth (132 who are from New Orleans) currently housed in secure OJJ facilities would eventually return to their communities without any re-entry and community support services. Additionally, due to the proposed cuts, all community-based support services for the 3,599 youth currently under OJJ supervision for probation and parole would be cut. It goes without saying, that the elimination of these educational, job-training, and other support services greatly increases the risk that these youth will re-offend. These cuts would impact the lives, safety, and well-being not just of at-risk youth, but of all of us.
Think about it. All the community based programs in the state are about to get their funding yanked. This is bad for us in both the long and the short term. Both sides of the political aisle have the data – rehabilitation is far more effective and much less costly over time than incarceration.
Of course the negative impact of private prisons is also a proven fact and yet Louisiana Gov. Jindal has been pursuing an aggressive program of privatizing the states penal system. The fact that both the evisceration of the OJJ and privatization of the prisons are happening in the state that has more incarcerated people per capita than anyplace on the planet should sound warning bells. (See my prior writing on that subject for more details.)
As a New Orleans native I’ll always step up to brag about our food and our music, but I am sad to say that our state’s approach to juvenile justice is draconian, outdated, and counterproductive to say the least.
Let us hope that HB 1 fails to make it out of committee. If it passes Louisiana will slip back into the dark ages when other states are moving into the future.