Locals lobby for Juvenile Justice Reform

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LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — Raise the age” has been the slogan for those in favor of Senate Bill 324. The bill, created by Senator Jean Paul Morrell from New Orleans, is aimed at keeping 17-year-olds out of jail. Louisiana is one of nine states that prosecute 17-year-olds as adults.

Isiah Chavis and Aleya Domingue are students of the Northside High School Legal Studies Academy. Both of them attended Louisiana Youth Justice Day, a call to Raise the Age and juvenile justice reform at the state capital earlier his month.

“Raising the Age is cost-effective, it’s smart, it’s a safe idea” said Domingue.

Cost effective indeed, Director of Corrections, Rob Reardon says raising the age of juveniles from 17 to 18, would save the sheriff’s office $500,000 a year; the cost of operating the juvenile unit at the jail. “There’s obviously cost benefit to us. The benefit to society is that these individuals don’t become entangled in the system.”

Reardon say keeping juveniles out of the jail will increase their chances of being productive citizens after their debt to society is paid. “In juvenile detention facility so they are hooked in with the school system. In the adult jail system, they’re not” added Reardon. Chavis, a 17-year-old himself, sees an injustice when 17-year-olds aren’t offered the same rights as adults. “You’re not allowed to vote, you’re not allowed to serve in the military, you’re not allowed to do much of anything except for being imprisoned tried as an adult” said Chavis.

Reardon says one of the main reasons Louisiana ranks number one in sending people to prison is the incarceration of 17-year-olds. The bill is set to go before the Senate for final passage on May 2nd.

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