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Editorial: New standards improve Louisana's juvenile detention centers

Last Modified: Thursday, July 18, 2013 6:10 PM

A new set of standards for the state’s juvenile detention centers that took effect July 1 is setting Louisiana up as a model for other states to follow.

Before now, the state’s 15 juvenile detention facilities operated independently of one other, each with its own rules and regulations. Facilities were required only to meet fire marshal and health department approvals.

Now, all juvenile justice facilities in the state, including the detention centers, are licensed by the State of Louisiana Department of Children & Family Services. It’s the first time that the facilities have been required to be licensed.

“Before (July 1), Louisiana did not have quality standards for these facilities to meet in order to ensure the well-being of the children in these facilities. We are correcting that today,” said DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier.

State licensing of juvenile detention facilities became state law in 2010, after legislation sponsored by former state Rep. Damon Baldone (D-Houma) was signed by Governor Bobby Jindal.

DCFS worked with representatives from juvenile justice, public safety and corrections organizations, state government and stakeholders to develop uniform licensing standards.

Dane Bolin, director of the Calcasieu Parish Office of Juvenile Justice Services, was chairman of the committee that helped create the licensing standards.

“Creating, adopting and preparing for these new standards has been a journey that has lasted two-and-a-half years,” said Bolin. “I have witnessed how these standards have raised the bar in all facilities across the state, creating a safer facility for both staff and juveniles.”

Mark Soler, executive director for the Center for Children’s Law and Policy in Washington, D.C., said Louisiana officials have put in a “real investment of time and energy” during this process, and he hopes the work produces a system worth emulating by other states.

“It’s been a real cooperative partnership that really puts Louisiana on the cutting edge of juvenile detention facilities,” Soler said.

Congratulations to Bolin and the rest of his team for helping improve the system for troubled youth in our state and for creating a blueprint that other states can emulate.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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