Baton Rouge called a dumping ground for convicted juveniles across the state
BATON ROUGE- East Baton Rouge Parish has more convicted juveniles living in group homes and other forms of housing than any of the other 64 parishes in the state the WBRZ Investigative Unit has learned.
Many of the juveniles who are being housed here are not from here. Their convictions run the gamut from armed robberies to batteries.
Curtis Nelson is a juvenile prosecutor and sees first hand the issues plaguing our community with children acting badly.
"We are seeing youth from other parishes who are placed in group homes here who will further engage in criminal activity," Nelson said.
One recent example comes to mind. Because the case involves juveniles their names are almost never revealed and getting information isn't easy.
"We had three youths," Nelson said. "Not from Baton Rouge, but placed in a group home in Baton Rouge. They stole a car, drove to another parish and engaged in a robbery in another parish."
The WBRZ Investigative Unit obtained numbers that are shocking. East Baton Rouge Parish houses more juvenile offenders than any other parish in the state. For the third quarter of the year, Baton Rouge housed 62 delinquent juveniles in group homes. That's up from this time last year.
The problem goes back a few years. In January of 2014, the Office of Juvenile Justice evacuated the Jetson Center for Youth in Zachary. It's a facility that housed juvenile offenders, educated them and provided them the necessary therapy. After the center closed, juveniles who didn't commit rapes or murders were left with no other place to go but group home style settings.
"If you have a high risk youth that is likely to re-offend and you put them in a group home, there's a possibility when they go to school or return from school they will engage in further delinquent behavior," Nelson said.
Tonight, Nelson believes more resources need ot be allocated for the kids so they don't commit crimes when they become adults.
Collis Temple runs some of the group homes in Baton Rouge. Temple said his homes provide some of the only options for children with problems, and they are doing what they can to help them.
Temple released the following statement:
"The Harmony Center is a residential treatment facility that provides services to youth in a less restrictive, community based setting. Harmony Center is not a locked correctional facility, but we do follow all requirements of the Department of Children and Family Services and also the Office of Juvenile Justice to ensure every youth in our facility are provided with appropriate therapeutic services depending on their specific needs. We are also pleased to be fully accredited by the American Correctional Association who promulgates standards that are followed by similar facilities nationwide.
After providing 37 years of service, we will continue to work with DCFS and OJJ so that community based services will continue to be offered to our children."