SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – The Louisiana House Appropriations Committee met Tuesday morning to discuss funding for juvenile facilities and rehabilitative programs throughout the state.

The Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice Deputy Secretary Otha “Curtis” Nelson Jr. and members of his staff went before the appropriations committee to discuss the budgetary needs of youth services and progress made by the OJJ.

Lawmakers wanted answers about what more could be done to bring down juvenile crime and recidivism rates. They also questioned if more resources were needed to improve facilities and services for juvenile offenders.

The OJJ made a controversial decision in 2022 to transfer “high-risk” youth offenders from juvenile facilities to Angola State Penitentiary.

After Rep. Bacala of Ascension Parish asked if there is enough space to house juveniles as the number of juvenile offenses rises, Nelson explained that the rate of juvenile offenders is decreasing. Nelson mentioned there are currently over 300 juveniles in custody versus more than 3,000 offenders housed in the late 1990s throughout the state.

Representative Edmonds of East Baton Rouge Parish highlighted that although Nelson repeatedly said rehabilitation was the goal at OJJ, the office allocates only minimal funds to education and vocational skill.

Edmonds suggested that OJJ partner with vocational schools in the state provide education and credential programs for youth to move them away from recidivism.

Nelson said OJJ has a high-security facility under construction in Monroe at Swanson that will provide 72 new beds.

The Bridge City Center for Youth was converted to the state’s Jump Program. The Jump Program houses only juveniles who commit crimes of a sexual nature.