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Calcasieu Sets Standards for Juvenile Justice

Calcasieu Parish has been asked to help develop standards for juvenile justice detention centers around the state.

House Bill 1477, enacted this summer, outlines the development of “best practice standards” for juvenile detention facilities and licensing.

Dane Bolin, director of the Calcasieu Parish Office of Juvenile Justice, said the bill formed a task force to develop the standards. He said Calcasieu, which has standards in place, was chosen as the lead entity for the effort.

Bolin said the legislation — and what it will bring — is “historic” in the juvenile justice arena. “You could, in the past, open up a juvenile detention center and were not required to be licensed. Think about it: A juvenile detention center not having standards to abide by,” he said.

Bolin said Calcasieu was tapped because of how officials here collaborate when it comes to juvenile justice.

He said the parish’s “juvenile justice reform team” includes the Police Jury, family and juvenile court judges, the District Attorney’s Office, Public Defenders Office, various law enforcement agencies, the School Board, the Education and Treatment Council, and several state agencies.

"They talk about hurricanes and how Calcasieu Parish does so well by coming together, but it’s with every- thing,” he said.

Calcasieu’s juvenile justice system has been recognized statewide and nationally, and Bolin himself has been singled out for his juvenile justice work.

“Again, the reason that we have succeeded is due to the team effort and the collaboration. They have to buy into it,” he said.

The parish’s juvenile justice office falls under the Police Jury and gets support from a 10-year property tax.

The office operates a list of programs and departments as part of its detention center and its probation field services.

Bolin said all are aimed at helping youths get on — and stay on — a healthy, successful path. Calcasieu’s programs deal with such issues as drugs, mental health, sexual abuse and truancy. The parish is also a pilot site for the MacArthur Foundation’s Louisiana Models for Change in Juvenile Justice.

The foundation has provided grant money to the agency for a new Juvenile Justice Resource and Assessment Center to be located on East Prien Lake Road.

Bolin said it will be “a onestop shop for family and juvenile services.”

In addition, in 2006, the Annie E. Casey Foundation named it one of three national demonstration sites in Louisiana.

The Casey Foundation has programming geared to reduce the numbers of children detained in facilities.

Bolin said the Calcasieu office also offers schooling onsite and off-site.

The juveniles in the programs are also involved in activities to help keep them off the streets, Bolin said. One program, New Leash on Life, places parish shelter animals at the detention center to be trained by the juveniles housed there.

“When they leave here, they are sad to leave their animals,” Bolin said.

Juveniles come to the facility by way of law enforcement agencies and referrals.

Bolin said the parish’s programming is helping young people and saving taxpayer money.
According to parish data, juvenile-related crime is down.

Bolin said about a dozen young people are detained in the parish facility this week. Ten years ago, he said, the average was around 30.

Bolin said the number of parish juveniles in state custody is also kept at a minimum.

“For years, our systems used to place too many kids in the custody of the state of Louisiana. They would end up in inappropriate placements, whether it would be secure or nonsecure facilities,” he said. “There were too many kids in the facilities, so, therefore, they would not receive proper care. Now, we link the services to the kids and keep them here with great results. In the long run, it saves the state and the parish taxpayers dollars.”

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Models for Change is supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, website operated by Justice Policy Institute.