New juvenile justice program hopes to get kids back on track

Updated: Nov. 10, 2020 at 10:12 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Parents with children in the juvenile justice system are thanking the city for a new program that’s helping children get back on track.

Some children and teens in the juvenile justice system with non-violent offenses have the option to be released and live at home. But, with the new program created by the city and juvenile justice intervention center it doesn’t mean sitting at home all day with nothing to do.

The intensive home supervision program is giving families more options when it comes to juvenile detention.

“We got this new program because we’re trying to keep these babies off the streets,” says Janessa Gatlin.

Gatlin’s son was caught with a weapon at 14-years-old but now her son and her family are finding the help they need.

Juvenile detention specialists similar to parole officers check-in with the child and family multiple times a week and provide a counseling service to help the child stay on the right path.

“They’re learning something that’s constructive to them and they feel interested in going versus picking up a gun and literally feeling comfortable with shooting another person or shooting another kid,” says Gatlin.

Getting ahead of the situation before it becomes an issue, Dr. Kyshun Webster, Director of the Juvenile Justice Intervention Center, says the goal is to provide alternative help and reduce recidivism.

“Release kids, allow them to go home, work with the family,” says Dr. Webster.

And get to the root of the cause of the issue that brings kids to juvenile detention in the first place.

“And if he’s trying to steal to help mom put food on the table, then we can address that. That’s the kind of things we’re looking for.”

The new program also helps with economic needs for example if the parent or guardian is unemployed. And while being at home with family can be positive, for some it can make things worse.

“Peers can be the risk factor or a positive factor, prevention factors, depends who the kids are,” says criminologist Dr. Peter Scharf.

Dr. Scharf says programs like this can work but it depends on how it’s implemented.

“These kids, if they get busted one more time, they’re going to jail for a long time. Their life is ruined. So, if you really care for the kid, care about what happens, you have to be pretty focused and reach out,” says Dr. Scharf.

But the Juvenile Justice Intervention Center hopes the city leans in and supports families who are trying to get their kids back on track.

“It makes them feel safe. Even though when they leave, they might not be safe no more. But they need these programs. They need to feel like somebody cares,” says Gatlin.

Right now, there are about eight juveniles currently being supervised by juvenile detention specialists and the director says they have seen progress.

Funding for the referral-based program was allocated in the city’s last budget cycle from the general fund.

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