The St. Tammany Parish Council unanimously adopted a resolution at its July 12 meeting supporting the 22nd Judicial District Court’s efforts to be designated as a Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative site by the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement.
The designation will allow the court's Family Justice Initiative program to apply for grants from multiple state agencies to develop alternatives to pretrial detention for low-risk juvenile offenders.
The Family Justice Initiative is a working group that includes the district court, district attorney, public defender, sheriff, the Office of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Youth and Family services, the Florida Parishes Juvenile Detention Center and the Youth Service Bureau.
It meets regularly to review policy, planning and programs to address the needs of youth, their families and caretakers in both neglect and delinquency situations.
Judge Scott Gardner explained the aims of the program to the council. “Pretrial detention of low-risk youth makes them more likely to re-offend, less likely to re-enroll in school, and will ultimately put very challenged kids in much worse situations," he said.
"If we can find alternatives such as electronic monitoring, drug testing, counseling and treatment prior to adjudication, we may be able to do more with these children in their homes, rather than detention, which is costly in terms of human costs, costly to their families, costly to their careers and costly to the taxpayers.”
The council’s resolution of support is a requirement for consideration as a site. If approved, St. Tammany will be the sixth parish in the state to be so designated.
In other business, the council, without discussion, again postponed the approval of Municipal Water Pollution Prevention Environmental Audit Reports for nine sewage treatment facilities operated by parish-owned Tammany Utilities.
Residents on the eastern side of the parish have criticized Tammany Utilities for frequent sewage spills, and, they claim, for underreporting the number of spills.
The reports have been postponed to allow an independent company to perform a review to ensure they are accurate.
The council also amended the animal control and welfare section of St. Tammany's code of ordinances to more strictly define the conditions under which a dog can be tethered and to prohibit dogs that have not been spayed or neutered from being tethered under any circumstances.