Letter: Juvenile justice sees progress

Some good news about Louisiana’s success on the juvenile justice reform front was announced last week in the results of a nationwide study. While the news did not make headlines in state media, it is certainly noteworthy and indicative of the state’s reform progress. The study examined implementation of proven programs for juvenile offenders and indicated Louisiana as one of the five top states in adopting programs proven to be most effective in dealing with delinquent or violent youth and their families.

The study, “Implementing Proven Programs for Juvenile Offenders: Assessing State Progress,” was conducted by the Association for the Advancement of Evidence-Based Practices out of Downington, Pa., and looked at each state’s use of the three most highly regarded evidence-based programs for family therapy, where the primary goal is to reduce future delinquency.

These model programs have been shown to substantially reduce recidivism, saving taxpayers far more than they cost and at the same time increasing public safety and improving the lives of youth. In addition to our state, these models have been replicated at more than 700 sites nationwide.

The study cited commonalities seen by the five leading states include a structured involvement of all key stakeholders including state and local agencies, development of local expertise, pilot testing of new evidence-based programs, creation of information resource centers, designation of a small number of evidence-based programs to be supported by the state, special funding to support evidence-based programs that are non-revenue producing, technical assistance to parishes and counties for needs assessment and program selection and implementation.

The author of the report, Peter Greenwood, praised Louisiana specifically for its creation of the state Juvenile Justice Reform Act Implementation Commission to oversee execution of evidence-based programs in the state and the state’s transition to a therapeutic model of care. He emphasized the importance of the LSUHSC Institute for Public Health and Justice and MacArthur Foundation’s Louisiana Models for Change initiative for success in developing good working relationships with key stakeholders at the state and local level and bringing together those stakeholders to disseminate and implement more effective community-based services for youth.

The technical assistance tools developed and disseminated by the Institute for Public Health and Justice and MacArthur Foundation team in Louisiana were also listed in the report as a major component in helping local parishes with the problems of program selection and implementation.

I am urging our leaders to take note of these findings and continue to work to shift the state’s resources toward these evidence-based, proven programs and away from those programs that are ineffective and costly. We have the tools. We know they work. We must continue to move forward with implementing these programs throughout Louisiana.

Catherine Kimball, chief justice

Supreme Court of Louisiana

New Roads