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Helping Prisoners Can Cut Recidivism

 

Letter to the Editor
For the Lake Charles American Press
March 18, 2010

RE: Editorial – Helping prisoners can cut recidivism
In a recent editorial, some statistics were presented regarding Louisiana’s incarceration rate, which is at or among the highest in the nation.  Although the situation is grim, our citizens need to be aware that there are many positive initiatives taking place here in Calcasieu Parish within the juvenile justice system, which ultimately impacts adult recidivism.  By providing the right care at the right time, the Calcasieu Office of Juvenile Justice Services, which is a department of the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, has seen a decrease of youth entering the state’s system over the last several years.
Incarceration is not always the most effective way to treat youth. The implementation of a screening and assessment tool has allowed us to direct youth to the proper services, which often means keeping the youth in the community, with his or her family. Community-based services that involve the entire family are generally more effective at actually changing behavior, rather than simply locking up a youth for a period of time, after which he or she is likely to reenter society as a bigger risk than before.
Working collaboratively with all involved parties, including law enforcement, the local school system, the district attorney’s office, judges and others, allows us to fill gaps in services to youth and families, improve communications among agencies and leverage resources to improve mental health and substance abuse services.
It’s important to treat the underlying causes of behavior problems in youth, rather than only punishing bad behavior.  Calcasieu Parish has an innovative, proactive juvenile justice system. We believe that treating youth in their communities, with their communities, and appropriately intervening in delinquent behavior saves money and decreases the risk of future delinquent behavior.
Our experiences have shown that preventive efforts in working to correct behavior in youth results in fewer people growing up into the corrections system, and that is always a good thing.
Dane Bolin, Director
Calcasieu Parish Office of Juvenile Justice Services
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