By Kendra Smith-Parks | Fox8 | January 9, 2020
NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) – A new policy is now in effect at Orleans Juvenile Court. Any juvenile that is arrested and has an open court case won’t be released from custody until they see a judge.
It is a new measure that is aimed at increasing public safety in a time when many residents are frustrated about juvenile crime.
The Juvenile Court Judges say it is time to act and they hope to work with all members of the criminal justice center to make this happen.
They say the juvenile crime has created a climate of fear in our schools and communities.
The judges met yesterday and decided to implement the policy that imposes an automatic hold on a juvenile that is arrested if that juvenile already has an open case against them.
Several judges say the new policy is aimed at stopping crimes from being committed by young repeat offenders.
They are aware of the frustration among the community who have become victims over and over again. They also say this is also important to make sure they have a chance to intervene in a child’s life before it is too late.
“So, sometimes some of the kids may have been arrested but they may not have gone in front of a judge and that’s what we are trying to stop. At least some of the kids that we know have been arrested that have current open cases that we will have the ability to see what’s going on,” says Chief Judge Candice Anderson.
“To look at what’s going on in their lives and as the other judges have indicated to look a family life, and to look at what other opportunities are available to them,” says Judge Tammy Stewart. “We can get a better idea of how we can treat this kid and put them in a place where they can be stressful.”
The judges all said there are programs available but not enough. So much more is needed and they say too often the decision is to either detain or release.
Chief justice Candice Anderson explained that up until today, just because police bring a child in in handcuffs doesn’t mean they’ll see a judge.
“What we’re trying to do is slow down some of the comings and goings so we have an opportunity to stop in for a moment get some information and get some background, find out where they live, where is the parent or guardian that’s involved in the child’s life,” said Anderson.
However, according to Metro Crime Commission’s Rafael Goyeneche, in the case of Micah Scott, Scott was already out on probation after he pleaded guilty to a carjacking case in 2019 until he was re-arrested following the Lakeview incident.
He says Scott would not have been “caught” within the new policy.
“That is to allow the judge to ascertain on a case by case basis if that juvenile poses a risk to the community and that is a positive step,” said Goyeneche.
Goyeneche says programs to help rehabilitate teens and young people are paramount to decrease recidivism. However, he says the city should bring back one specific program to better help track those young people released prior to a judgement: electronic monitoring.
“That monitor can make sure they are in school, work, in counseling, they are at home under the curfew it can also put them at the scene of the crime if a crime is committed,” said Goyeneche.
Goyeneche says city leaders disbanded the program because of cost, but questions how much the city and its citizens are paying on the back end for crimes young people and others are committing.
“It’s common sensical its cheaper than keeping them in custody… how much money is it costing us to release these offenders and allow them to recidivate again,” said Goyeneche.
Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro repsonded to the new policy saying, “I commend the judges of New Orleans’ Juvenile Court for recognizing the presistent danger posed by habitual violent teen offenders toward our citizens, visitors and police, and for taking this important step to improve public safety in our community.”
But to those who defend young people in the courtroom, they fear it will keep juveniles in jail for longer. They say the possibility of more jail time for juveniles will only exacerbate the problem.
“The main result of this policy is we’ll be locking more children in jail and it’s not effective for changing behavior and prevent crime,” said Executive director, Aaron Clark-Rizzio with the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights.
Clark-Rizzio says they continue to believe rehabilitation programs are best. Programs that will occupy young peoples’ time, while at the same time educating and keeping them from re-committing crimes.
Clark-Rizzio says jail time will only increase a child’s chances to get re-arrested in the future.
“That’s because when we put a child in jail it’s a traumatic experience, it disconnects them from their home, community, and school so there’s a cost to putting a young person in jail,” he said.
The new policy will go into effect immediately.