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Rapides Parish, Louisiana

Added Jun 2, 2009

P.O. Box 1431
Alexandria, LA 71309

Phone (318) 767-2814
khale@lacourts-9th-jdc.org

Rapides Parish has made significant progress since the 1990s in improving its juvenile justice system. Local leadership is committed to working together to build on this momentum toward significant and lasting reform.


Models for Change-supported reform efforts in Rapides Parish focus on bringing about change in three primary areas: expanding alternatives to formal processing and secure confinement; increasing access to evidence-based services; and reducing disproportionate minority contact with the juvenile justice system.


Alternatives to Formal Processing and Secure Confinement
In a model system, most responses to delinquency would be local and informal. Juvenile offenders would generally be supervised, sanctioned and treated in community settings. Opportunities for diversion would be made available at all critical decision points. Strategic screening and assessment tools would be used to connect youth and families to appropriate treatment services and support. Judges and other juvenile justice decision-makers would have access to a broad array of efficient and effective community-based programs to provide both alternative dispute resolution and needed services, and would channel juveniles into these alternatives on the basis of their individual risks and needs. Secure confinement would be the choice of last resort.

Through the work of Models for Change, Rapides Parish has made considerable progress in reducing its reliance on secure confinement of juveniles, but still needs additional service delivery infrastructure in place to facilitate the provision of services to the increasing number of youths who are now retained in the community.


Goals/Strategies The goal of this initiative is to expand and improve access to effective community-based programs and services that can serve as alternatives to formal processing and secure confinement in the juvenile justice system.

The approach to attaining these goals will involve strengthening Rapides’ Children and Youth Planning Boards, fostering collaboration among local leadership, identifying and planning for local programming needs, developing and demonstrating good diversion policies, procedures and practices inclusive of diversion eligibility requirements and guidelines for making diversion decisions, while also developing funding mechanisms and expanding the available continuum of care to ensure that planning leads to action.


Additionally, data of youth and families in Rapides Parish will be analyzed in an effort to guide decisions concerning type, location and accessibility of needed programs and services. Continued education, training and awareness are key in continued progress toward reform and will be met through collaboration with local colleges and professionals to ensure longevity and fidelity of alternatives.

 

 

Progress to Date Rapides Parish has successfully utilized two functions of local law enforcement agencies, Counsel and Release services and the Crisis Intervention Team for the Mentally Ill, as diversionary alternatives for arrested youth. Also available is an Exhaustion of School Resources agreement established between our Rapides Parish schools and Families in Need of Services (FINS)
department which ensures that the schools utilize all of their resources prior to referring a child to FINS for further assistance, resulting in further penetration into the juvenile justice system. Finally, as a project of the Children and Youth Planning Board, an Interagency Service Committee has been formed to jointly address the needs of high-risk youth within the community, often resulting in a deescalation or dissolution of issues prohibiting the youth from entering the juvenile system.


Evidence-Based Community Services
In a model system, local juvenile courts, probation departments and intake centers would be capable both of accurately identifying the needs of youth and consistently diverting them to appropriate local programs and services. These programs and services would be scientifically supported, having demonstrated their effectiveness, or shown a strong likelihood of success, in improving juvenile offenders’ behaviors or skills. The success of evidence-based interventions and services would be consistently measured and the development and evaluation of new practices would be encouraged.


In Rapides Parish, the shifting of youth from state-run secure facilities to local programs creates an opportunity to invest in more effective, evidence-based practices and interventions.

 

 

Goals/Strategies The goal of work in this area is to increase the availability of scientifically supported community-level interventions and the use of sound screening and assessment tools that serve to divert youth into those interventions. If the initiative is successful, the results will be better outcomes for juveniles and their families and a higher level of provider and system accountability. As a result of prompt screening and assessment, and expanded funding opportunities, youth will have a wider range of evidence-based programs and other promising services selected to meet their needs without having to go deeper into the justice system.

Efforts in this area include:

  • Helping local leadership create a consistent screening and assessment process using appropriate tools at the earliest possible
    processing stages
  • Reviewing currently available services, identifying barriers to the development and expansion of evidence-based practices, and assisting in the development of a plan for establishing or strengthening evidence-based practices
  • Conducting meetings, workshops and other educational activities to raise awareness of the benefits of evidence-based practices, and putting systems in place to ensure long-term training and education on these issues

Progress to Date Currently Rapides Parish has several promising practices and the following Blueprints’ Evidence Based Practices available: Functional Family Therapy, Multisystemic Therapy, Strengthening Families, Life Skills, & Nurse Family Partnership. Efforts are underway to bring about additional evidence based practices in the near future. Additionally a web-based Guide to Human
Services is available for area providers to list their contact information and range of services, serving as a community resource for youth and family services.


Disproportionate Minority Contact
In a model system, alleged juvenile offenders would receive fair treatment at each point of contact with the system, regardless of their race or ethnicity. All hearings, decisions, and services would be handled in an unbiased manner, and the system would monitor compliance with this ideal. Resources would be available to examine whether these youth have been treated differently or have not enjoyed equal access to services. The system would provide or advocate for equal access to community-based services for the group, and would seek wherever possible to prevent their entry or limit their
penetration into the formal juvenile justice system. With more information, decision-makers would be better able to identify problems and address disparities.

The routine collection of DMC data at the parish level is essential to identify where problems occur in the system and why.

Goals/Strategies The goals of work in this area are to improve DMC data collection, to develop the capacity to collect and analyze DMC data regularly, and to use DMC data analyses and other research to identify, implement and monitor appropriate interventions to reduce disparate treatment and limit unnecessary penetration of youth of color into the juvenile justice system. If the initiative is
successful, Rapides Parish will have the capacity to conduct ongoing analyses of DMC, and youth of color will have access to an increased number of community-based programs and services, particularly at the diversion stage and other front-end stages of the juvenile justice system.


Efforts in this area include:

  • Developing an effective DMC data collection method that is standardized throughout the parish, isolating race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status and other pertinent variables at key decision points
  • Analyzing available parish data to identify overrepresentation and disparate treatment at various points of contact, from arrest to disposition and aftercare
  • Analyzing data to identify targeted interventions likely to reduce DMC, including structuring decision-making, employing diverse and culturally-competent staff in key positions, developing partnerships with families and community resources, developing alternatives to formal handling and secure confinement, and creating a full continuum of treatment, supervision and placement options

Progress to Date
Rapides Parish has implemented a Detention Screening Instrument that is utilized by Law Enforcement to determine whether or not a youth should be detained in secure detention by addressing risk to public safety. Since its inception, the number of detention detainees has decreased drastically, resulting in reduced overrepresentation in the justice system and increased opportunity for diversion.

Site Leadership
For more information about the Models for Change Rapides Parish grant, contact project coordinator Karyn Hale at 318.792.4715 or at khale@lacourts-9th-jdc.org. The Juvenile Division of the 9th Judicial District Court serves as lead entity for the grant.