La. lawmakers consider reuniting Office of Juvenile Justice, Dept. of Corrections

Published: Aug. 8, 2022 at 5:26 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 8, 2022 at 6:14 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Should the Office of Juvenile Justice and Louisiana’s Department of Corrections join together again? Some state lawmakers believe it could help with some of the staffing issues and disciplinary issues.

For years, Louisiana’s Juvenile Justice System operated under the same umbrella as the Department of Corrections, which deals with adult prisons. But in 2004, the two split, hoping it would prove that rehabilitating children would serve a better purpose than treating them like adult criminals.

“I don’t think we can sustain the system the way that we’re doing it right now,” said Rep. Tony Bacala (R).

But recent events such as escapes, riots and staffing shortages at the detention centers have forced some lawmakers to reconsider. Rep. Tony Bacala, a Republican who sits on the Criminal Justice Committee, said we are in crisis mode.

“I think the immediate concern, you know rehabilitation, while it’s important, the immediate concern is just taking back control over these facilities, they’re run amok,” Rep. Bacala added.

Though others who serve on the Criminal Justice Committee share the same concerns, members like Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, a Democrat, said it may not be as easy as just merging the two back together.

“We have understaffing issues in both parts, DOC and them. So, I mean it’’s not an easy fix for either of them. If we married them, that could possibly help us to resolve some of the problems. But at the same time, it goes back to the funding,” said. Rep. Marcelle.

“You can’t allow it to just crash and burn right now due to those considerations. But we have got to look at this as a short-term and a long-term issue,” Rep. Bacala emphasized.

Rep. Marcelle said this is a state-wide issue and cannot be fixed by shuffling the violent juveniles from one community to another.

“We’ve gotta just figure out a way to bring them together, marry them both, and come up with the best plan for the juvenile system,” Rep. Marcelle continued.

Both lawmakers believe legislation around the issue will come up during the next regular session. The state’s Joint Budget Committee will meet Tuesday, Aug. 9.

Rep. Marcelle said she will see if any work can be done there that would help.

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