Contact: Ken Daley, Public Information
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro commended the judges of Orleans Parish Juvenile Court for increasing their direct involvement in detention decisions under a new policy unanimously approved and announced Wednesday (May 29).
“Until our city assesses honestly the scope of our juvenile crime problem and its effect upon our citizens, we cannot effectively reduce it,” Cannizzaro said. “Encouraging the coddling of persistent offenders in the past few years has made our city less safe, and I applaud today’s recognition of that by the juvenile court.”
After a special en banc meeting, the juvenile court judges decided that all juveniles arrested on charges that “pose a risk to the public” will be detained until seen by a juvenile court judge. Previously, many decisions on whether an arrested juvenile should be released were being made by social workers using a risk-assessment tool, without the arrestee ever appearing before a judge for individualized assessment.
“I have argued against that process for some time,” Cannizzaro said. “I think it is of vital importance that young offenders and their guardians be brought before a judge in a
courtroom in order to better understand the gravity of committing criminal acts. That alone can steer many youth back on the right track. And where it doesn’t, our judges are
better able to tailor an appropriate response and impose meaningful consequences.”
In their statement, the juvenile judges said they have “seen an alarming increase in delinquent activity in our city, as well as an increase in recidivism by youth who have previously been, or are presently under, the supervision of the state juvenile probation system.”
Cannizzaro said in February that violent juveniles posed the city’s biggest crime problem in 2019. The DA on May 16 proposed an eight-point plan to reduce juvenile crime that
included a firmer hand by juvenile judges for violent and repeat offenders, and city funding of an electronic monitoring system managed by law enforcement as an alternative to juvenile detention.
“As I said two weeks ago, we all want to see fewer juveniles in detention,” Cannizzaro said. “But we must get there because fewer juveniles are committing violent crime, not because we continue turning the other cheek, hoping things will improve. This is a vital question of public safety and we must address it as such.”
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