“With liberty and justice for all…” it’s in our pledge of allegiance. Governor John Bel Edwards wants to uphold that by strengthening our justice system.
“It’s unacceptable to me that we have the highest incarceration rate in the nation,” said Edwards.
At the Governor’s Conference on Juvenile Justice, he spoke to a packed room about how important it is to start with our youth, and he addressed some of the state’s biggest issues when in comes to our juvenile justice system.
“I’ll tell you that when it comes to juvenile justice reform, I believe we’ve been behind in this area for too long. In fact, we’re one of only nine states right now in the entire country where 17-year-old offenders are tried as adults no matter how minor their offense was,” said the Governor. “Not only are we out of step with the rest of the country, but it’s simply not the right way to treat our children in Louisiana.”
This week, the Louisiana Senate Finance Committee approved the Raise the Age Act. It would allow 17-year-olds who commit minor crimes to be tried as juveniles, and not adults.
“Seventeen-year-olds who do time at an adult facility are at greater risk of assault, and are more likely to end up back in prison,” said Edwards.
Edwards said budget cuts are still looming over many programs across the board, but Member of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Board Julio Galen said there’s still hope.
“Though we know there are some financial challenges we must pay attention to, but I also know the heart of the people working and serving youth are in the right place, and they want to do the right thing,” said Galen.
Governor Edwards also said we have to tackle education, poverty and mental healthcare in order to improve our juvenile justice system.