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Judge: Lack of beds in rural parishes has system failing violent offenders

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BATON ROUGE- A lack of beds available when juveniles commit violent crimes is causing concern among one local sheriff and a local juvenile court judge.

Sheriff Brett Stassi sounded the alarm last week when a 14-year-old hit a 15-year-old with a bat, giving him a head injury that resulted in a concussion and the need for staples. That 14-year-old had been in trouble before, but there was no bed space anywhere around the state to house him.

Juvenile Court Judge Adam Haney in Baton Rouge is familiar with the problem. It's a problem that predominantly affects rural parishes and not East Baton Rouge.

"When you have situations where a youth should be detained pretrial, there is no place for them to go and other parishes are forced to look to those parishes that operate detention centers and go begging," Haney said.

But, all the begging didn't work for the 14-year old. Sheriff Stassi said a bed was not made available until almost one week after the incident. The child was sent home with an ankle monitor instead.

"In general, there is obviously an issue if there's a youth that has committed a new offense while on probation," Haney said. "That's a failure. The point of probation is to stay at home, allow you to rehabilitate without having to go into custody."

The Office of Juvenile Justice tells WBRZ, there is no formal plan as of now to address the problem across the state. But, there have been meetings and discussions about it. Until something is done, juveniles who commit violent crimes in rural parishes will be at the mercy of available bed space, and if there isn't any they're set free.

"It affects other parishes, but affects us too," Haney said. "There are situations where it's incredibly frustrating to me that we'll have youth come in the parish and they show up at a detention center because they've been arrested and they have an ankle monitor put on for an offense they committed somewhere else."


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