OJJ Presents First Annual Champion of LA Juvenile Justice Award to Chief Justice Kitty Kimball
Baton Rouge, LA – The Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice has presented its first annual Champion of Louisiana Juvenile Justice Award to Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Catherine "Kitty” Kimball, said Deputy Secretary Dr. Mary L. Livers.
Louisiana juvenile justice has undergone a systemic change since 2003, ranging from increased community-based treatment to secure care. “These changes were brought about by the dedication and hard work of people who were determined to provide better conditions and services for Louisiana youth,” said Dr. Livers. “Our critics from the 1990s would not recognize the 2010 juvenile justice system in Louisiana. The Office of Juvenile Justice could never have transformed the system without the system’s stakeholders who fought for change."
Three governors, members of the legislature, the judiciary, district attorneys, law enforcement and other state officials worked together with parents and other stakeholders to make sure that OJJ received the support and resources needed to make the reforms a reality.
“Today we are a changed agency,” Dr. Livers continued. “Jetson Center for Youth, once slated to close in disgrace, is a changed facility, a therapeutic model that provides needed and appropriate treatment for the youth who reside here. Bridge City Center for Youth is a fully therapeutic facility, and Swanson Center for Youth is well on the way.”
“We have created a way to recognize those who have worked so hard and championed the cause of juvenile justice reform,” Dr. Livers said. “We created the Champion of Louisiana Juvenile Justice Award, and I can think of no one more deserving of this first annual award than Chief Justice Catherine “Kitty” Kimball.”
Dr. Livers said that Justice Kimball is a woman who has broken new ground in many ways throughout her life, and has given much to the State of Louisiana, the children of our state, and the Office of Juvenile Justice in particular. She graduated from LSU Law School in 1970, and began her practice of law in New Roads in 1975. She served as a district judge in the 18th Judicial District, in the parishes of West Baton Rouge, Iberville and Pointe Coupee, for ten years before running for the Supreme Court in 1992. Judge Kimball was the first woman elected as a justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court. Seventeen years later, on January 1, 2009, she became Chief Justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court.
During her legal career, Justice Kimball championed reform of the state’s juvenile justice system, which a few short years ago was widely considered substandard. “Justice Kimball spent untold time and effort working to transform our secure facilities, and the entire continuum of juvenile justice services throughout the state, to provide more effective services for Louisiana’s at-risk youth,” Dr. Livers said. “Today, we are seen as a progressive model, and we have the tireless efforts many people to thank for our progress, none more dedicated than Justice Kimball.”
Louisiana officials worked closely with national experts, including the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and the Missouri Youth Services Institute, to develop programs for youth-based treatment and rehabilitation. These foundations invested substantial funds and effort in Louisiana, assisting in comprehensive reform in Louisiana’s juvenile justice system. By 2006, Louisiana’s system was hailed by juvenile justice experts and the U.S. Justice Department as a progressive model that should serve as an example to the rest of the country, and the federal lawsuit was dismissed.
Today, over 90 percent of youth in the OJJ system receive services in community-based settings, with considerably less reliance on secure care. OJJ reports that the recidivism rate now stands at about 17 percent one year after release from secure care, down over three percentage points over last year.
Justice Kimball remains committed to continued work on behalf of Louisiana’s at-risk youth and their families. She was recognized with the first annual Champion of Louisiana Juvenile Justice Award in recognition of for her tireless efforts on behalf of Louisiana’s youth.