Juvenile justice transparency bill dies at the end of Louisiana legislative session

House Bill 321 by Rep. Debbie Villio would have forced five parishes to establish public-facing dashboards to track juvenile offenders and their court cases.
Published: Jun. 7, 2023 at 11:44 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE (WVUE) - With the legislative session coming to an end, supporters tell Fox 8 a bill dealing with transparency in the state’s juvenile justice system will not move forward.

House Bill 321 by Kenner Rep. Debbie Villio would have forced five parishes - Orleans, East Baton Rouge, Caddo, Bossier and Lafayette - to establish public-facing dashboards where any citizen can gain electronic access to the court records of juveniles arrested for a violent crime.

The bill came in response to what supporters, including Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, said was a crime wave ripping through the state’s major cities. Supporters said many “high profile” crimes are being committed by juveniles, and that Louisiana’s juvenile justice system is too tight-lipped.

“I’m disappointed rather than concerned, but I figure, we’ll just have to sign it as the governor next year,” Landry said. “There are a lot of people across this state who are extremely disappointed by the games that were played at the state capitol regarding this bill.”

Landry said the bill was ultimately killed due to finances. He said Orleans Clerk of Criminal Court Darren Lombard told the legislature the bill would cost Orleans alone around 90,000 dollars to implement, whereas the bill had only budgeted 100,000 dollars for all five parishes.

He questioned the figure, adding that the parishes supporters spoke with told them it would only cost five or ten thousand dollars to implement.

“We’ll find the money, if that’s what it is. I just don’t believe that the fiscal note that was attached was real, and again, I think it’s just more games and it’s more disappointment for the people that have been impacted by the widespread violent crime that has infected this state,” Landry said.

Meanwhile, opponents railed against the bill during committee sessions in which it was debated, saying they were afraid the bill would unfairly target guilty teen offenders who are later released and try to reenter the community. They also opposed the fact that the bill would release the information of teens who were arrested but hadn’t yet had their day in court.

“This is information that someone could look up and even though this information is about someone who has not even been convicted of a crime but has just only been accused of a crime, that still can present challenges for them as they try to exist in their community just to see that,” said Ashley Hill Hamilton with the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights.

Fox 8 legal analyst Joe Raspanti said it’s a shame the bill died this session, and that it would have been a positive step toward improving transparency and accountability in the juvenile justice system.

“It was a good bill because what it was trying to do was find out who these kids are that are the recidivists, that keep getting back out on the street, and find out who the judges are that are letting them back out on the street to do these same crimes again and again and again, but now we’re not going to have that tool,” he said.

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