Police Jury gives approval for juvenile justice studies

Published 4:08 pm Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Calcasieu Parish Police Jury approved several studies Thursday to make sure the Office of Juvenile Justice Services is effectively treating at-risk youth.

Dane Bolin, the parish’s juvenile justice director, said that the University of Chicago Law School will analyze the department’s records from June 2008 to present day. He said the purpose is to “determine whether juvenile detention and alternatives to detention affect the probability” that a child will not get in trouble with law enforcement.

The university will also study the effectiveness of the department’s detention screening instrument, which uses a point system to determine whether a child should be placed in detention, or given an alternative, Bolin said. A child who scores 12 or above is detained at the detention center, while those who score below 12 are given alternatives, which include electronic monitoring, shelter care through Harbor House or being placed at the evening reporting center for several hours after school.

“We just want to make sure the kids get to court and not re-offend pending that court hearing,” Bolin said.

The John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is funding the study. Bolin said the cost will not be determined until the study is complete.

In another study, Bolin said, the New York-based Vera Institute of Justice will make sure the screening instrument is putting the right children in the right treatment environments. The Annie E. Casey Foundation is funding the study, which is estimated to cost $35,000.

Bolin said the screening instrument has been very effective and has helped save taxpayers money. He said it costs about $150 a day to house a child at the detention center, compared with $20 per day for electronic monitoring.

“We’re putting more money into preventive programming versus secure confinement,” Bolin said.

The detention screening instrument was developed through a partnership between the juvenile justice department, the Calcasieu District Attorney’s Office, the Public Defenders Office, Family Juvenile Court judges Guy Bradberry and Lilynn Cutrer and local law enforcement.

Bolin said that Applied Data Systems LLC will enhance the juvenile case management system to better analyze the department’s information, which will help complete the studies. The Annie E. Casey is also funding the work for up to $9,000.