Tulane VISTA Blog

Fighting Poverty with Passion

Field Report: Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights

June started off with a long-awaited move to LCCR’s new office space.  We left our cramped, essentially windowless quarters behind for bright, spacious digs in the new Juvenile Justice Center in Gentilly.  The complex, located next to the Youth Study Center – the juvenile detention facility, will eventually host juvenile court and the district attorneys’ office.  For now though, it’s just us next to the bayou.  We may have bought a boat to celebrate.

New Orleans Juvenile Justice Center

New Orleans Juvenile Justice Center

First day desk

First day desk

The maiden voyage!

The maiden voyage!

Apart from the move, it was a big month for LCCR with the close of the state legislative session on June 11th.  It was a truncated fiscal session, in which each lawmaker could only present a limited number of bills not related to spending and revenues, that focused on addressing the state’s massive budget shortfalls.  LCCR was disappointed, then, by the legislature’s decision to approve $3.5 million to open a new 72-bed juvenile detention facility without the promise of closing old beds for each new one brought online.  And that’s just start-up costs; running the facility will cost the state $11 million a year – or $419 per kid, each day.

The organization did make some promising progress though, including approval of a study resolution to investigate the dismal state of education in Louisiana’s juvenile facilities, where only 8% of children in custody earn high school credits, and make recommendations for improvements.  Another study will explore the possibility of raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction to include all 17 year olds, as the vast majority of states do.

For more information, you can read my full legislative review here.

The close of the legislative session was followed in quick succession by several important grant application deadlines.  I spent a good deal of time editing proposals, as well as contributing some research and writing.

I also set up a film screening LCCR is sponsoring at the end of the month.  We’ll be showing 15 to Life: Kenneth’s Story, a documentary about a young man facing life without parole – and a second chance – for a crime he committed as a teenager.  The screening will be followed by a panel discussion based in Washington, D.C., including the filmmaker, Kenneth’s lawyer, a formerly incarcerated youth, and the director of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth.  Come out to see it at Zeitgeist at 6 pm on July 27th.  It’s free! More here.

I’ve also been making headway on the Juvenile In Justice exhibition and events we’re planning for October.  More to come on that, and some other new projects, in July’s blog post.

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This entry was posted on July 13, 2015 by in VISTA Field Reports.

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