When the people speak, as they did negatively on renewal of a tax that supports the Florida Parishes Juvenile Detention Center, it is difficult to ask for a do-over. But we agree with law enforcement in the region that the center is important enough for voters to revisit the decision made in November.
The tax originally adopted in 1995 and renewed 10 years ago provides more than 85 percent of the juvenile detention center’s funding. The renewal was soundly defeated in November in all five parishes the center serves — Livingston, St. Helena, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington.
If the tax fails again next month, the facility would be forced to close within a year or so, according to the commissioners who oversee the facility.
We think that would be a misfortune for the cause of law enforcement in the region.
The tax on today’s ballot is not technically a renewal but it is for the same 3 mills currently authorized, although the center has typically charged only 2.75 mills annually.
Judges, district attorneys and sheriffs call this a bargain. Officials from each of the five parishes in the district support passing the tax.
Juvenile Judge Blair Edwards, of the 21st Judicial District, said the detention center houses juveniles accused of violent offenses, including attempted murder, drive-by shootings and sexual predation.
“If you’re not going to vote for the tax, don’t call me when the child is released,” Edwards said.
The detention center spends less than national averages on housing, educating, feeding, counseling and securing each of the 60 juveniles, on average, held there, Edwards said. That cost is a bargain, we think, compared with the alternatives and the costs of allowing potential repeat offenders into the community without any attempt at rehabilitation.
District Attorney Scott Perrilloux, also of the 21st Judicial District, described the center as “a model facility” that allows juveniles to be treated and housed near their families, rather than shipped all over the state in search of available beds.
District Attorney Warren Montgomery, of the 22nd Judicial District, said as much as he dislikes taxes, he dislikes even more the idea of releasing into the community those youths with a high probability of committing additional crimes.
“That would only cost us more in the long run,” he said.
We agree with these officials and other community leaders backing a regional center for these youths.
Jails and the like are typically not popular causes with voters anywhere, and as Montgomery suggested, a lot of families are sensitive to tax bills right now. But the cost of the center annually is small compared with the benefits for public safety.
We urge a vote for the proposition.