LA Coordinated System of Care
Emergency.Louisiana.gov

History of Juvenile Justice in La.

Prior to the turn of the 20th century, children and adults with mental and/or behavioral problems were locked away from the public. In 1910, children as young as seven years old were still being housed in the adult prison system. In the early 1900s, advocates began to separate juvenile and adult offenders. The Prison Reform Association of Louisiana attempted to separate juvenile and adult offenders. The system in the early 1900s had little focus on rehabilitation.

In the 1970s, rehabilitation was the focus of the juvenile justice system. During this decade, deinstitutionalization began as overcrowding surfaced.  During this period, Louisiana worked to implement the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, and separated juveniles from adult offenders.

As juvenile crime increased during the 1980s, policy began shifting from rehabilitation to public safety in response to a national "get tough" movement. Public safety was a concern during this decade and many youth were tried as adults for serious and violent offenses. Although treatment was still a focus in Louisiana institutions, there was a significant decrease in the emphasis on rehabilitation. Overcrowding occurred in juvenile institutions, causing a shift towards community-based alternatives.
 
The state gave complete control for committed youth to the Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DPS&C), Youth Services Division, during this decade. In an attempt to make the system more seamless, all juvenile probation, parole and placement was transferred to the DPSC Office of Juvenile Justice in 1985. In 1989, the state committed to plan for improved care and treatment of youth in state custody.
 
In 1991, OJJ Assistant Secretary Don Wydra published "Timeline for Change," a comprehensive report on the achievements of OJJ since 1984. The report focused on youth and families and was a call for staff to be "agents of change." Mr. Wydra recognized the challenges in balancing public safety, punishment, rehabilitation services and education, focusing on the needs of the youth.
 
In the 1990s, the "rehabilitation" focus shifted towards "public safety." During this decade, the system served more youth with mental and developmental disabilities, and more serious criminal behavior. Also, during this decade, the federal government began intense supervision over Louisiana’s juvenile justice system.

 
Louisiana's Secure Care Facilities

In 1904, the Louisiana State Reform School for Boys opened in Monroe housing only white boys. It was renamed Louisiana Training Institute for Boys in 1908. When fire destroyed the administration building in November 1912, the records were lost, and the school disbanded until 1915.   Today it is known as Swanson Center for Youth. 

In 1926 the State Industrial School for Girls opened in Ball, in rural Rapides Parish. In May 1989 the girls' facility in Ball closed and the program moved to Swanson Center for Youth in Monroe. The girls’ program remained at SCY for two years, and was transferred to Jetson Center for Youth in 1991.  In response to the Juvenile Justice Reform Initiative enacted by the 2003 Legislature, regionalized gender-specific programs were developed for females.  The girls’ program at Jetson ended in 2005, when girls were placed in group homes in their communities or contracted facilities around the state.  Today, the girls’ program is housed at Ware Youth Center in Coushatta, Red River Parish, which contracts with OJJ to provide services for girls in a newly-constructed state-of-the-art facility. 

The State Industrial School for Colored Youth began operations in 1948 in Scotlandville, 13 miles north of Baton Rouge. In 1956 the facility became a co-ed facility.   In September 1969, the United States District Court ordered desegregation of juvenile facilities. The school was desegregated and the name changed to Louisiana Training Institution (LTI)- EBR. In May 1995, LTI – EBR was renamed Louis Jetson Correctional Center for Youth (JCCY) and in 2007, the word "Correctional" was dropped.   Today, the facility is called Louis Jetson Center for Youth (known simply as Jetson), and it has been transformed into a small, regional facility, functioning as a therapeutic model. 
 
 In 1972, Louisiana Training Institute-Bridge City was opened when the Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DPSC) purchased the 25 acre site, which had been used as a home for "wayward girls."  Today it is called Bridge City Center for Youth, and is a fully therapeutic regional facility.
 
The Tallulah Correctional Center for Youth opened in 1994. In 1997, DPSC transferred a group of juveniles from Tallulah to adult prisons to ease overcrowding, but in 1998 the Supreme Court found the transfers unconstitutional. Tallulah was closed in June 2004. In December 1998, Jena Correctional Center for Youth opened its doors, but was closed in June 2001. 


21st Century Juvenile Justice Reform Movement in Louisiana

During the 1990s a great deal of attention was focused on juvenile justice concerns in Louisiana, centered on the state's reliance on secure care, disproportionate minority contact with the juvenile justice system, variances and inconsistencies in sentencing among judges, large industrial-school types of facilities, high recidivism numbers, increasing numbers of young people in the adult system, and the fact that Louisiana had the highest juvenile incarceration rate in the country.    
 
Studies by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and other institutes validated these as real concerns. A series of public hearings about Louisiana’s juvenile justice system was held throughout Louisiana in the early years of the new century.
 
During and following these hearings, Louisiana citizens - advocates, legislators, juvenile justice stakeholders (judges, district attorneys, parents of juvenile justice youth) - became extremely active in stating their concerns and identifying problems with the system.  They turned to leaders including Supreme Court Chief Justice Catherine "Kitty" Kimball, Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu and state Senator Don Cravins, Sr. to address their concerns about problems with the juvenile justice system. Many Louisiana leaders visited the state of Missouri and worked with Missouri Division of Youth Services Director Mark Steward and the Casey Foundation over the next couple of years to find a solid, effective program for young people.
 
In October 1995 Human Rights Watch issued a critical report after visiting Louisiana’s secure facilities. OJJ responded to the Human Rights Watch investigational report by developing Project Zero Tolerance (PZT) to assure the safety of youth in the facilities.
 
In 1996, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) sent independent experts to visit the juvenile correctional facilities. In June 1997 DOJ issued a report of its findings to Governor Mike Foster.
 
In 1998, a lawsuit filed in federal court alleged that conditions and services in the secure care facilities did not meet constitutional standards. The lawsuit alleged that the state failed to provide reasonably safe conditions, adequate educational, medical, dental, mental health, and rehabilitative services. DOJ and the State of Louisiana entered into three separate settlement agreements to address educational services, medical and mental health services, and conditions of confinement.  
 
In November 2003, DOJ visited Bridge City Correctional Center and Swanson Center for Youth-Madison (Tallulah Center for Youth) and found both facilities in compliance. DOJ acknowledged that the agency was in compliance with requirements of the education settlement agreement.
 
In 2003, the Louisiana Legislature passed Act 1225, which laid the foundation for juvenile justice reform and created the Louisiana Juvenile Justice Implementation Commission to guide and oversee implementation of the reforms. OJJ began to make sweeping reforms in the treatment of youth.
 
In 2003, lawmakers, judges, and other stakeholders visited the state of Missouri to learn more about their juvenile justice system which was touting low recidivism rates. Louisiana made a commitment to partner with the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Missouri to create a secure care model like Missouri’s model.
 
In 2003, Youth Services began and continues to make sweeping reforms in the treatment of youth, transforming the system from a custodial juvenile justice model to a therapeutic juvenile justice model of care. The agency began focusing on staff and youth relationships in the secure care facilities, creating performance-based contracts for residential facilities, and expanding services to prevention and diversion.
 
In 2004 the reform efforts included OJJ’s separation from the Department of Public Safety and Corrections by Executive Order, followed by legislation, which codified the separation of Youth Services from DPS&C, in a manner similar to that of the Office of State Police. The Deputy Secretary’s position as agency head of the Office of Juvenile Justice (then known as the Office of Youth Development) was elevated to cabinet level, answering directly to the governor. These actions, together with creation of the Child and Youth Planning Boards in 2004, provided the framework for reform.

In 2004, Bridge City and SCCY Madison (Tallulah) were released from the Settlement Agreement. Further, all provisions pertaining to medical and dental care at the remaining facilities were terminated. On May 26, 2004, the last youth was transferred from SCCY Madison (Tallulah) and that facility was officially closed.
 
In February and March 2005, the DOJ visited SCY and JCY and found both facilities in compliance with the remaining components of the Settlement Agreement.

In May 2006, OJJ was released from federal oversight and the lawsuit was dismissed.
 
In 2005, OJJ published a five-year strategic plan addressing five initiatives: safety first, family involvement, quality seamless continuum of care, community involvement and partnership, and data driven outcomes. In 2006, OJJ amended the Strategic Plan to include the Service Coordination Model, which involves reforming services for youth as they enter and exit our system in secure care, residential and supervision programs, to better provide stability and meet the needs of youth.
 
In 2005, as a testament to our progress, Louisiana was selected as a Model for Change site by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
 
The agency began to shift funding to reflect reduced reliance on large numbers of youth in secure care, to increased community-based programming to support local communities serving youth at home.  OJJ has developed partnerships with residential providers statewide, serving at-risk youth by providing a variety of programs for day treatment, mentoring, counseling and summer activities, and promotes local court diversion and prevention initiatives.
 
The secure care facilities have been transformed, leading to more positive outcomes for youth. Youth have become more involved in the arts, and can participate in restorative justice programs and vocational education programs. Secure care treatment initiatives include family involvement, strength-based assessment, and building the Individual Service Plan (ISP). OJJ provides excellent medical, dental and mental health treatment in the facilities, in on-site infirmaries.
 
OJJ has implemented statewide specialized treatment programs including a Mental Health Treatment Unit, a Transitional Mental Health Unit, both at Swanson; the Winter Transitional Treatment Unit for youth with serious aggressive behaviors, housed at Jetson; a dormitory-based and clinic-based sexual offender program, a dormitory-based and clinic-based substance abuse program, the short term program and female secure care programs.
 
In May 2006, OJJ contracted with the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators (CJCA) to participate in its Performance-based Standards (PbS) for Youth Correction and Detention Facilities program. Through PbS, data relating to Safety, Order, Security, Health/Mental Health, Programming, Justice and Reintegration is collected bi-annually and measured against other juvenile correctional facilities across the United States. The outcome data is analyzed and facility improvement plans are developed to address critical areas in need of improvement.
 
In August 2006, OJJ adopted Safe Crisis Management (SCM) as its "use of force" technique within the secure care facilities. SCM is a therapeutic intervention program utilizing the least restrictive alternative and positive behavioral interventions. SCM replaced the Pressure Point Control Technique (PPCT), a pain compliance method used in adult facilities.
 
In 2007, OJJ updated the Standard Operating Procedures for contract providers to include more stringent guidelines/qualifications for direct care workers as well as social workers, counselors, therapists and teachers. The ability for a contractor to deny a youth for placement was eliminated.  Use of chemical agents was prohibited. More thorough guidelines were established for the documentation of treatment. Training was conducted for all contract providers.
 
In 2008, the Louisiana Legislature passed Act 565, changing the name of the agency from the Office of Youth Development to the Office of Juvenile Justice, and mandating the closure of Jetson Center for Youth by June 2009.   Act 565 also required a recommendation from the agency for creation of three regional youth centers.
 
In August 2008, OJJ adopted the SAVRY (Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth) as the tool to assess all youth adjudicated delinquent. OJJ piloted the use of the SAVRY at selected sites; by January 2010 it was implemented statewide.  Research shows that the SAVRY is strongly related to risk for general re-offending and is one of the best predictors of this type of risk.  Use of the SAVRY provides for consistent assessment of youths’ risk and needs, allowing OJJ to work with district attorneys, judges and other agencies to place youth according to their needs and risks. 
 
In August 2008, OJJ proposed creation of regional facilities to serve the Hammond area and Acadiana areas. 

Legislation in 2009 allowed OJJ to downsize Jetson Center for Youth, retain the name, and transform a portion of the property into a small, regional facility, functioning as a therapeutic model.  Today, Jetson is a model program that operates as a fully therapeutic, regional facility.