Youth Incarceration In Louisiana.

 

 

It appears that the rate of youth incarceration in Louisiana decreased  between 1997 and 2010.  A report recently released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation states that Louisiana’s 56 percent reduction in its youth incarceration rate was one of the most dramatic improvements in the country. Only Tennessee, Connecticut and Arizona experienced larger declines during the time period, according to the report that the Baltimore-based foundation.

“Kids Count” Coordinator in Louisiana, Teresa Falgoust, is pleased with the change and has said: “For me, the other Kids Count reports usually show Louisiana ranked at the bottom. It’s good to see this is an area where Louisiana is making progress,”

The report is called “Reducing Youth Incarceration in the United States” states that  Louisiana had the nation’s highest youth incarceration rate in 1996 with 549 per 100,000 criminal offenders under the age of 21. The report used data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

It is good to see that we are doing something well, in fact, very well, since in 2010, the youth incarceration rate dropped to 239 offenders per 100,000 young people. According to Falgout, the reason for the decline is the state’s continued efforts over the past decade to better screen youthful offenders. The state now uses more objective data to determine how to punish youthful offenders, rather than relying solely on law enforcement authorities who have to follow laws aimed at adults, Falgoust said.

As a defense attorney with 38 years of experience under my belt, I have seen the catastrophic result of  indiscriminate youth incarceration.  Yes, I have  a tendency to see people under the best of lights.  I am a firm believer in redemption and that everyone deserves a second chance.  If there is a place where this philosophy is warranted is in the treatment of young offenders.  Most young people can be rehabilitated and become productive adults.  I think we can all agree that incarceration is an expensive solution, but it is more than that, incarceration produces  the worst outcomes possible for youthful offenders.

Falgoust recently said that “Many studies show that children develop and can mature past bad decisions, if treated rather than thrown in a juvenile prison”.  Frankly, we can all  probably attest to this in each of our lives.  Change is possible and it is attainable.

 “Locking up young people has lifelong consequences, as incarcerated youth experience lower educational achievement, more unemployment, higher alcohol and substance abuse rates and greater chances of run-ins with the law as adults,” said Bart Lubow, director of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Justice Strategy Group.

I am happy to see that we are looking at this issue with eyes wide open.  According to Anthony Recasner, chief executive officer of Agenda for Children, a New Orleans-based organization,  Louisiana’s rate of incarceration of young people is still higher than the national average. So we still have a long way to go.

“As a state, we need to celebrate our successes, while also recognizing that Louisiana still has room for improvement,” said Recasner in a prepared statement.  Louisiana must expand drug courts and  provide certain nonviolent drug offenders with drug treatment provided in specialized  treatment programs that may further reduce the youth incarceration rates in Louisiana.

I am Attorney Martin E. Regan Jr.  and these are my personal thoughts