Fighting Poverty with Passion
There are 17 children in Orleans Parish Prison right now. Seventeen children in the most notorious and dangerous prison in the country. When they’re still presumed to be innocent. It’s a hard reality to stomach, and it’s one that the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights is preparing to change.
Just a few weeks ago I received an email from my director requesting that I edit and proofread a report drafted by he and our policy director titled Keep Children Out of Orleans Parish Prison. It’s a call to action for the City of New Orleans to end the incarceration of children alongside adults.
Surprisingly, Louisiana is among the handful of states that permits children who are being tried as adults to remain in juvenile detention facilities while their cases are pending trial. It’s an alternative that New Orleans has thus far ignored.
This is both costly and a stain on the City’s moral integrity.
The Orleans Parish Prison sheriff approved the construction of a “Phase 2” facility that inmates will soon house. This new facility has no segregated space for children, as is required by federal law. Bringing the prison into compliance would be an enormous expense for both the city and taxpayers.
But that’s a sideshow to the real problem: the appalling rates of sexual and physical assault, brutality, and emotional violence children experience when locked up with adults. The numbers are there. The trauma is devastatingly evident. There’s no real reason not to act now—to get children out of OPP and in a juvenile facility where they’re cared for and kept safe.
After two weeks of back and forth edits and negotiating with printer and designers, the report is finally set to launch. I hope people take notice.
Update: They did. Last week city council passed a resolution that all youth be kept at the Youth Study Center, the juvenile detention facility in New Orleans.