What is Mayor Cantrell’s ‘Pathways’ program for juvenile offenders?
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Mayor LaToya Cantrell on Wednesday (Aug. 24) doubled down on her decision to show up in support of a convicted juvenile offender who was a graduate of the city’s “Pathways” program.
“That’s supporting a young person that has made decisions that puts him on a better pathway,” Cantrell said in a press conference. “That’s what I did.”
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Pathways is one of a number of city-run programs. City leaders say the program is effective, but council members and New Orleanians have questions.
“While in that program, they learn life skills, work readiness skills, and they also learn mindful meditations that could help emotional management,” Pathways program director Kendra Parson says.
There are 21 participants currently in the 15-week program. Parsons says they attend 10 hours a week and a paid internship with local businesses is included.
“We offer intensive case management, and wrap-around services. We go to court and advocate for them in court. We go to the school. We sit in IEP meetings,” Parsons describes.
The 14-year-old convicted of robbing at least three women graduated from Pathways on June 10. Parsons says he has agreed to come back in the coming months to participate in a leadership alumni program.
“Midway his attitude changed,” Parsons says. “He ended up meeting the mayor midway because that’s what she does. She meets every cohort.”
“I’m intentional about meeting our young people and families where they are in order to ensure that there’s a better quality of life for this community,” Cantrell says.
Emily Wolff with Youth and Family Services says the mayor made programs like Pathways a top priority since its creation in 2019, just after Cantrell took office.
“We’ve seen incredible success rates in terms of recidivism rates for the program,” Wolff says.
Council members question the effectiveness of the program and have ordered an audit.
“Obviously something is not working and I don’t think the level of investment has been sufficient enough and I don’t think the programs are actually effective,” Council President Helena Moreno says. “Are we investing enough in these programs? Which ones are working? Which ones are not? Maybe the solution is to invest in non-profit community programs that are actually making a difference instead of trying to build our own within city government.”
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