Did you know that at least 20% of youth in Louisiana’s juvenile detention centers are LGBTQ??

Yesterday, the Senate approved a version of the state’s general operating budget that restores $3.5 million for the Office of Juvenile Justice to open an utterly unneeded new juvenile prison!  Today, the House will consider whether to concur in the Senate’s budget.  PLEASE CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVE TODAY TO TELL THEM TO VOTE NO.  

If the House does not concur, a conference committee will meet to try to come to a compromise.  PLEASE CONTACT THE HOUSE AND SENATE LEADERS who will likely be on that committee to tell them to use your money wisely — for services that youth actually need!

The Backstory

The Jindal Administration proposed $3.5 million in additional spending to open the new 72-bed Acadiana youth prison facility in May of 2016.  But the budget made no provision for closing any old beds at the state’s existing, outdated, oversized juvenile prisons.  As originally presented, the budget would have increased Louisiana’s juvenile prison capacity at a time of dramatically falling juvenile crime, and at a daily cost of nearly $415 per bed.  We need a clear and enforceable plan mandating the closure of at least 72 old juvenile prison beds in the state’s existing, crumbling facilities.

On May 12, 2015, House Bill 1, which ultimately will become the state’s FY 2016 budget, was passed out of the House Appropriations Committee with that $3.5 million in additional juvenile prison bed funding stripped out of the budget. In other words, the budget did not provide for opening new juvenile prison beds in this fiscal year.

But the fight is not over.

Yesterday, the Senate approved a version of the state’s general operating budget that restored $3.5 million for the Office of Juvenile Justice to open an utterly unneeded new juvenile prison!

A conference committee of senators and representatives are meeting to resolve the differences between the budgets approved by the House and the Senate. The conference committee could simply adopt the House’s juvenile justice funding plan, refusing to fund the opening of an unnecessary prison in the face of jaw-dropping budget deficits.

But the committee could do more.

It could write language requiring that the Office of Juvenile Justice save money by closing one old bed, in its existing and outdated youth facilities, for every new bed that comes online. That strategy would save money this year and hold down costs in every subsequent year by promoting the right-sizing of a juvenile justice system whose reforms have failed to keep pace with our sister states. The ensuing savings could be reinvested in services that actually promote better life outcomes for children.

Juvenile prison does not keep us safer.  It does not reduce recidivism, and it damages life outcomes for children.  (Did you know, for instance, that only 8% of youth in Louisiana juvenile prisons are earning high school credits — and only 12% of formerly-imprisoned youth nationwide graduate high school by the time they turn 21?)  It is phenomenally expensive.  And Louisiana already locks up far too many youth: 57% of children in Louisiana’s youth prisons are there for offenses that involved neither violence nor weapons.  In fact, juvenile violent offending statewide has dropped by 40% since 2006.

The House will vote TODAY on whether to concur with the Senate’s budget, or send the bill to conference committee.  We need you to take a stand for Louisiana’s youth and say NO MORE FUNDING FOR YOUTH PRISONS!

Please take a look at this Op-Ed by Rachel Gassert of the Louisiana Center for Childrens’ Rights for more information.

*Thank you to the Louisiana Center for Childrens’ Rights for taking the lead on this effort and their tireless advocacy on behalf of Louisiana’s youth.*