Louisiana was selected as the third Models for Change state due to significant strides previously made in improving its juvenile justice system. Political leaders had shown interest in building on that progress. Louisiana was restructuring its system and managed a significant shift in emphasis from a primarily correctional orientation to one centered on the treatment and rehabilitation of youth. With the help of Models for Change, the state dramatically reduced its traditional reliance on secure incarceration of juveniles in state-run facilities. Circumstances of incarcerated youth during and after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita motivated a new sense of urgency and a willingness to innovate that laid the basis for significant and lasting reform.
Models for Change-supported reform efforts in Louisiana focused on expanding alternatives to formal processing and incarceration, increasing access to evidence-based services, and reducing disproportionate minority contact with the juvenile justice system.
Selected reform innovations
- Expanded the use of evidence-based practices that reduced the number of youth placed in correctional facilities from over 2,000 to below 500. Louisiana doubled the overall proportion of juvenile justice involved youth having access to evidence-based services while the state witnessed a simultaneous 46% drop in juvenile arrests between 2006 and 2010.
- Adopted best practice detention standards which have improved the expected level of safety, quality of care, and accountability within juvenile detention centers. They have been lauded by national experts for their quality.
- Developed a “data group” led by the University of New Orleans to ensure that reforms were structured and documented in such a way that results can be tracked and assessed.
- Adopted risk and needs assessment tools to guide and inform decision-making in an objective manner that accounts for young people’s actual levels of risks and individual needs.
- The Institute for Public Health and Justice (IPHJ) released a study that was the catalyst for raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction. Legislation passed in 2017 and goes into effect in July of 2018. The IPHJ is part of the leadership team steering implementation with the Governor’s Office. Implementation efforts include a focus on police diversion, DA diversion practices, and a focus on DMC to avoid formal entry into the JJ system for 17-year olds and younger.
- IPHJ recognized by the state legislature as a go-to research mechanism and has been responding to requests for research to inform state policy.
- IPHJ has an appointed position on the state’s OJJDP SAG Board which steers funding and policy decisions related to juvenile justice in Louisiana. The SAG has been working to form a new juvenile justice strategic plan for Louisiana based on the principles of Models for Change and OJJDP guidelines.
- IPHJ’s evidence-based practices provider survey has been transformed to a broader child and youth behavioral health survey of state and Medicaid providers. Louisiana is now using the IPHJ and the survey to study practices, recommend EBPs for gaps in services, and assist with workforce development. There is an active plan for the IPHJ to work with the state to create a center for advancing EBPs in both youth and adult services.
- IHPJ and the National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice are training law enforcement, probation staff, and detention/facility staff on mental health issues in juvenile justice. IPHJ is also part of a National Institute of Justice study of school safety looking at the impact of school discipline practices and police presence on campuses and comparing four interventions in eight schools in Louisiana and eight schools in Michigan.
Publications and tools
Louisiana Models for Change work was coordinated by the LSU Health Sciences Center - School of Public Health.