Programs to help teens stay out of jail ahead changes to juvenile laws

Programs to help teens stay out of jail ahead changes to juvenile laws
Starting July 1 17-year-olds in Louisiana will be moved from adult court down to juvenile court and some Caddo Parish officials say they aren't ready for the change. (Source: Eric Pointer/ KSLA News 12)
Starting July 1 17-year-olds in Louisiana will be moved from adult court down to juvenile court and some Caddo Parish officials say they aren't ready for the change. (Source: Eric Pointer/ KSLA News 12)

CADDO PARISH, LA (KSLA) - The Caddo Parish Juvenile Justice System will rely on current programs to help with potential overcrowding once a new change comes in just a matter of months.

Starting July 1, 17-year-olds who commit non-violent crimes are slated to move from adult courts down to juvenile courts.

The Caddo Parish juvenile detention center currently has very limited space with only 24 beds.

So they use programs like the misdemeanor referral center and the District Attorney's diversion programs which are meant to keep the non-violent teens out of jail.

The misdemeanor referral program sends Caddo Parish teens to the referral center instead of jail for misdemeanor crimes.

"When this program was started, it was primarily designed to alleviate the over-crowdedness of the detention center. It was just so many young people going there for minor offensives," said director for the program Gerald Kimble.

Some of the minor offenses include fighting, trespassing and truancy.

It's up to the police to decide how serious the crime is and when to take them to the center.

Once at the center, the teens wait until they are picked up by their parents or guardians, which SPD Lt. Janice Dailey says could have it's drawbacks.

"We're dependent upon the parent to bring them back to court when they're supposed to go to court. And that's great if you have parents or guardians that are involved in their children lives and they know what's going on. But that's not always the case."

So come July 1, when the court system starts sending 17-year-olds to juvenile court, Kimble says they'll be ready to take in more.

"If they come here, we'll treat them. They'll have to go by the same rules as the other 14-year-olds. And if they do, we'll process them out, try to get them out of here, try to get them to a responsible adult. Cause 17 years old as far as I'm concerned is still a child," said Kimble.

The District Attorney's office also offers a diversion program where people take part in rehabilitation to keep their records clean.

According to a brochure from the DA's office, the Caddo Parish Pretrial Diversion Program lasts 12 months and may include drug testing, counseling, substance-abuse treatment, group therapy education and job-skills training.

They must also complete the recommended counseling or treatment program, pay all diversion fees and complete the minimum 48-hour community service requirements for felonies or 32-hours for misdemeanors, according to the brochure.

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