100 signatures reached
To: Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards
Children held in Prison in Louisiana are in Danger during this Pandemic
In light of the national health crisis and tragedies that have re-illuminated the urgent need to advance racial justice, we urge you to immediately take the following actions:
• Immediately release all youth currently incarcerated;
• Ensure released youth receive transitional support that includes housing, health care & food;
• Enact a moratorium on the new construction or reopening of youth correctional facilities, including those currently planned by the Office of Juvenile Justice;
• Commit to closing all youth prisons and redirect the savings from youth prisons closures to alternatives to incarceration;
• Invest in the mental health, education, financial wellness of youth, and the hiring of a supportive deputy secretary with comprehensive experience implementing best practices for youth in rehabilitative settings;
• Recommit to advancing the full implementation and renewal of the Juvenile Justice Act of 2003, Act 1225, along with a drastic overhaul and cultural shift in the way our state and society approaches crime among our youth;
• Shift school funding from police to school counselors, peace builders, and positive discipline;
• Divest funds from police and their militarization;
• Cease any and all tactics, tools or activities that intentionally or unintentionally seek to disproportionately contain, control, and terrorize youth; and
• Meet with FFLIC, families, youth, and community members to discuss the need for a collaborative process to create a plan for system transformation
Please let us know if you have questions or need additional information. As representative of the LCYJR, you can reach me at 504 -708-8376 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why is this important?
On behalf of the Louisiana Coalition for Youth Justice Reform (LCYJF), we are writing to raise our concerns about the impact of Covid-19 on incarcerated youth and to share our recommendations for youth justice system transformation. We are the Steering Committee for Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children’s (FFLIC) “No More Prisons” Campaign. FFLIC is an organization dedicated to creating a better life for all of Louisiana’s youth, especially those involved in or targeted by the juvenile justice system, and the undersigned organizations.
As you know, the recent high-profile police murder of George Floyd has highlighted how the criminal justice system perpetuates deep and historic injustices and oppression in this country and here in Louisiana. This tragedy, as well as other recent murders by police, coupled with the devastating impact of Covid-19 on the African-American community, has underscored the need to change the way we function as a society, especially our juvenile justice systems. We now have an opportunity presented by the recent tragic events to reevaluate our systems and move forward with a renewed commitment toward racial justice in all systems, including the juvenile justice system.
Across the nation, rates of youth incarceration are declining. According to the Justice Policy Center, between 1999 and 2015 the number of youth detained or placed out of home declined by more than half. Recently, as a result of Covid-19, this trend accelerated rapidly as states and localities across the nation recognized the dangers and inefficacy of incarceration. A new survey of juvenile justice agencies across the United States found the rate of young people admitted to detention fell 52% in March and April — a decline in two months equal to what took place over 13 years. In Louisiana, according to one article, there was an almost 50% reduction of children in the state's three juvenile detention centers in about two and a half years, from mid-2016 to March 2019.
However, Louisiana is still lagging behind in the national movement towards decarceration of youth and the call for justice for youth. While other states moved quickly in the wake of Covid-19, Louisiana has taken no substantive actions to release youth, even those who are just a few months away from serving their sentences. Maryland reduced nearly one-third of the state’s incarcerated youth population. In Michigan, the Governor signed an executive order protecting youth populations in juvenile detention centers and Chicago quickly held hearings on the release of youth. California’s governor issued an order to temporarily halt adding children to state-run detention facilities. This inaction in Louisiana is in direct conflict with the clear guidance from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to “safely minimize the number of people detained in jails.”
Even further we understand that during a state budget hearing, Mr. Edward Dustin Bickham, Acting Deputy Secretary of the Office of Juvenile Justice made known his plans to move forward with building new facilities, as well as possibly reopening facilities that have been closed. A new youth prison at this time is unacceptable. While administrators in the past have purported that the move is to support their new model of care, we know that alternatives to incarceration are the best way to rehabilitate children. We must invest in rehabilitative and therapeutic programs and education.
You might also consider that the City of New Orleans just announced it is seeking to suspend the planned expansion of its jail facility indefinitely.