The 16th Judicial District Attorney's Office announced the opening of Juvenile Assessment and Service Centers (JASC) in St. Martin, St. Mary and Iberia Parishes.
According to Bo Duhe', District Attorney, "the opening of these centers marks the first time that juveniles with delinquency charges in the district will have access to assessments and services prior to formal processing in juvenile court".
According to a relese, the JASC will be partially funded through a Diversion Grant and an Alternatives to Detention Grant through the Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice.
Currently in the district, Duhe explains that when a juvenile is arrested, they receives no supervision or support until he or she is arraigned in juvenile court. With the implementation of a JASC in each parish, within days of a youth's arrest, the youth will be assessed and a plan with services and goals will be developed to address identified risks and needs.
Plans for juveniles will also include a restorative justice component including community services, restitution, and in many cases, a letter of apology to the victim.
This change in intercept with juveniles in the district is important because, according to Judge Trey Haik, "If a serious problem such as family issues, a drug problem, or a mental health problem is driving a youth's delinquency behavior, it is important that those risks and needs are addressed as soon as possible to ensure that subsequent crimes are not committed, prior to the youth's court date." "Especially with juveniles, it is important that the system responds in a way that maximizes the youth's chances of being able to remain in his/her community while reducing the probability that the youth will penetrate further into the justice system, stated Duhe'." Although youth with minor misdemeanor charges will be diverted away from formal processing, youth with charges for serious offenses will still be formally processed through juvenile court.
The Family Service Division of the District Attorney's Office will administer the JASC in each parish. According to Gannon Watts, the Director of the Family Service Division, funding for the JASC begins on November 1, 2019. Claire Daly, Program Advisor for the project, stated that much of the work in a project of this magnitude involves collaborating with other community systems such as the sheriff's office, city police departments, the judiciary and area service providers to ensure the success of the project.
The JASC, through scheduled appointments, will also accept referrals into its Family in Need of Services Program from parents with children who are ungovernable. The JASC will accept its first referrals within a few weeks of the funding date.