DA Clayton offers juvenile detention center in Westbank
ROBERT, La. (West Side Journal) – According to District Attorney Tony Clayton, a juvenile offender detention center could go a long way towards their rehabilitation and a life away from criminal behavior.
Clayton and others from 18e The Judicial District believes the facility he and others recently visited could serve as a model for what they would like to see for the parishes of West Baton Rouge, Iberville and Pointe Coupee.
He and several officials – including Assistant DA Jessel M. Ourso III and District Judge Kevin Kimball, among others – made the trip to Robert, Louisiana, on the border of the parishes of Tangipahoa and St. Tammany, to collect ideas on what Clayton is hoping for. lead to the creation of a facility on the west bank.
“They do an exceptional job in establishing parishes in Florida, and although they have a population of up to 150 beds, we don’t need more than 25 percent of their capacity,” he said. -he declares. “I would like to reproduce what they did.”
Clayton said he believed the plan could come to fruition, but that it would likely require $ 1 million.
“I didn’t think so at first, but now I think so, but once we cut down on juvenile crime, which lowers property values, it would make it a healthier place to raise a family without fear of anything. thing that happens criminally. to your loved ones, ”he said.
Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett Stassi said the increasingly violent nature of minors justified the need for a facility, but said he would push for a facility tax.
“We pay a lot of taxes, and I made a commitment that as long as I was sheriff, I wasn’t going to ask for a tax, and I’m going to live with that during my career as a sheriff,” he said. he declares. . “I’m all for having a facility, but I won’t be the one to tax people. This is something that I promised people when I was elected, and I will respect it.
Stassi said he spoke with Clayton about a juvenile detention center, but three parishes may not be enough to support him.
“Historically, you have to go to more than three parishes to keep the beds full, especially with the criteria you have for minors with all the rules and regulations,” Stassi said. “It’s a monumental financial deal.”
The St. James Juvenile Detention Center was a highly touted state-of-the-art facility when it opened in 1991, but the costs have become unbearable.
The establishment – which served the parishes of Ascension, Saint-James and Assumption – closed in July 2013.
An installation would only be successful with a long-term plan before dirt, bricks and mortar enter the equation, Stassi said.
“The problem is, you can’t just wake up one morning and decide you’re going to have these kinds of facilities,” he said. “It takes quite an effort to have something like this.”
He said the number of juvenile offenders also increased thanks to legislation when state law raised the minimum age for trial as an adult from 17 to 18.
The facility operates under the auspices of the Florida Parish Juvenile Justice District, established in 1986 by a state legislative resolution for the 21st and 22nd Judicial districts. It encompasses the parishes of Livingston. Saint Helena, Saint Tammany and Washington.
It operates under the aegis of the Florida Parish Juvenile Justice Commission, made up of eight commissioners.
The district operates through a 10-year, 3 million property tax paid by the five parishes. It generates around $ 9 million per year.
The facility opened in 1994 with a capacity of 31 beds and has since grown to 133 beds. It has become one of the most popular such facilities in the United States.
The establishment provides education within the framework of cooperation with the Tangipahoa school system. He also teaches the arts, gardening, cooking and other activities.
Facilities manager Joey Dominick says he saw the merits of the program. He receives calls almost daily from former prisoners, who share their stories with him.
“Some people call me and tell me they work as a mechanic, in retail or in sanitation… all of them are productive,” he said.
“I even got a call from Washington, DC, telling me he now works for the Department of Homeland Security, and stories like that make me love this program.”
One of the cornerstones is a merit system that promotes appropriate behavior and responsibility.
“They do an exceptional job,” Clayton said. “We believe that this partnership will eventually lead us to have a state-of-the-art establishment, and that we will be able to help fight against juvenile crime and facilitate the educational elements so that when they are released , they can be productive citizens. . “
Stassi agrees, however, that law enforcement authorities need to work with Clayton on ways to curb the growing number of juvenile crimes.
“We have a lot of people in that window, so we need to have a place for people convicted of more serious crimes so that we can get these people off the streets,” Stassi said.
“We have had minors who have committed very bad crimes, but overall we don’t have the type of crime we have seen in East Baton Rouge Parish.
“But when they have these crimes, we have to have a place to house these minors because some of these criminals don’t need to be put back on the streets,” he said. “But getting this installed is a lot easier said than done.”