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Recent juvenile murder arrests put spotlight on proposed bill

3 months 1 week 1 day ago Monday, February 19 2024 Feb 19, 2024 February 19, 2024 6:51 PM February 19, 2024 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - Less than two months into 2024, at least four juvenile murder suspects have been added to the already stretched-to-the-limit East Baton Rouge juvenile detention facility.

On Saturday, the sheriff's office arrested a 10 and 11-year-old for beating a toddler to death. Two women, including the mother of the toddler, were booked for principal to murder charges for leaving the children unsupervised.

While kids that young would never be tried as adults in Louisiana, lawmakers and Governor Jeff Landry want to lower that threshold to 17which could apply to two teens booked into the juvenile jail last week for armed robbery and murder.

"When you look across our major metropolitan areas, when you talk to district attorneys, chiefs of police, local sheriffs, the overlying issue that they always come back to are 17-year-olds," said State Senator Stewart Cathey, who is proposing that exact bill.

"This legislation will move 17-year-olds into an adult facility where they belong. At 17, you know the difference between right and wrong and I think that those offenders should be treated as adults."

With the EBR juvenile detention facility nearly always at capacity and frequently unable to keep offenders in custody. Currently at the detention facility, they are at full capacity housing 38 juveniles. Anytime another juvenile comes in, one has to leave to make space. 

Taking 17-year-olds out of the mix may remove some of that burden. However, opponents say it's not the answer.

"A 17-year-old is a child. Quite frankly, a 20-year-old is a child," Reverend Alexis Anderson said.

Anderson serves on the EBR Prison Reform Coalition. While she agrees the juvenile facility is inadequate, she does not believe 17-year-olds belong in adult jail.

"Children in a place that isn't even fit for adults is a different kind of cruelty."

While some may think the threat of adult jail would prevent 17-year-olds from committing crimes, she disagrees.

"We have this illusion that when people do bad things, stupid things, they're thinking about the consequences and I think we've got to start recognizing children brains don't work the same as adult brains."

Senator Cathey's bill will go before committee Tuesday.

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