NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A program aimed at keeping teens out of New Orleans detention centers is finding some success and looking to expand.
The City partnered with the Family Center of Hope to run the Evening Reporting Center with hopes to break the cycle.
“What you’re hearing in the news now are the kids that we’re working with right now,” Executive Director Reverend Pat Watson said.
From purse snatching to carjacking, judges can refer the juveniles to the evening reporting center as an alternative to detention centers.
It’s a 45 to 60-day program, Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“Instead of locking them up, give them a chance to at least live again,” Watson said in a press conference with the Mayor.
Wilson says being locked up creates even more issues that will likely never be addressed like they can with the social workers in this program
“They really know their name, they’ve known their addresses And that’s probably about it, but they don’t know themselves physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually culturally, and we teach those concepts here,” Watson said.
It’s not just focused on the kid, rather the whole family as a unit. Watson says parents have been pivotal.
“In the first 48 hours the kids are referred from juvenile court, we are in their face, we are in their space, we are in their homes, we’re looking at those positive things on the wall pictures, family engagement or lack of that,” Watson said.
Watson says the center had an 85 percent success rate last year. That’s 51 juveniles who haven’t committed another crime.
“Based on that we’re scaling up the program, putting additional resources where they need to be,” Mayor Latoya Cantrell said.
Watson says they are hoping to double the number of referrals, something LSU Health Criminologist Dr. Peter Scharf says our youth is in desperate need of.
“The murder log over the weekend, just two days ago, roughly half of the murder victims were juveniles and this is incredibly traumatic. Kids shot and died,” Scharf said.
Scharf says detention centers only breed crime and there needs to be more evidence-based approaches that both parents and judges will get behind.
“We’ve had interventions that appear promising on the face of it and then we forget about it,” Scharf said. “We need to sustain, get a model, look at the research, get the best experts and push it forward and institutionalize it.”
To Scharf, this isn’t an endpoint. He says there needs to be sustained engagement
“Let’s say you find the kid has a learning disorder, a behavioral disorder, mental illness, which many of the kids in the system do, what’s the follow-up?” Scharf asked.
Watson said the program cost half a million dollars to run last year and before expanding she needs to build up the supporting staff able to carry on the programs properly.
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