The Youth Study Center portion of the New Orleans Juvenile Justice Center Complex will be opening this month. The facility is the culmination of an effort to replace the one destroyed during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and to come into compliance with reforms prompted by a class-action lawsuit brought by the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana.
Located in the St. Bernard area, the new center will serve as a detention center for youth while they await trial. In addition to providing detention housing, the facility will include space for education, dining, recreation, administration and training.
“This complex will be a state-of-the-art facility that follows national best practices and meets the needs of our youth and puts them back on a path towards prosperity,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu says.
The complex will also house the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court, which will be opening later this fall. This facility will contain four new judge’s chambers with supporting court administrative space as well as space for the District Attorney’s and Public Defender’s offices. Additionally, the facility offers rooms for outside counsel, victims and family.
Both its structure and practices were designed to comply with the Federal Consent Decree, which addresses not only the building itself but also the environment therein. Shortly before the groundbreaking last year, U.S. District Court Judge Ivan L. R. Lemelle of the Eastern District of Louisiana Certified that the city was in compliance with all of the changes agreed to in the Consent Decree.
Mayor Landrieu adds, “Treatment of juveniles six years ago was harsh and unacceptable and we made a commitment to make necessary changes. Through hard work, we met the terms of the Consent Decree in 2013 and we are moving the city forward to bring our juvenile justice system into the 21st century.”
Dana Kaplan, the executive director of the Juvenile Justice Center of Louisiana, who has been instrumental in the reform, says, “The Juvenile Justice Complex is an important step in moving New Orleans towards a juvenile justice system that is fair, effective, improves public safety and uses taxpayer dollars wisely, of which we can all be proud.”