New Orleans City Council considering ordinance to give juvenile offenders a second chance

Should young criminal offenders get another chance? That's the debate in New Orleans City Council as they consider an ordinance that would offer a warning to juvenile offenders.

NEW ORLEANS -- Judge Candice Bates-Anderson sees children and teenagers come and go through her court room.

"Last year we saw roughly 755 youth that came through our intake center," said Judge Bates-Anderson, the Chief Judge of Juvenile Court in New Orleans.

Bates-Anderson says about 28 percent of those at the center get arrested for school-based offenses.

"These are the types of crimes that are a misdemeanor. Crimes that are not violent. Crimes that are not a threat to public safety," Judge Bates-Anderson said.

Bates-Anderson, along with Councilmember Susan Guidry are working on changing that. A new ordinance called "The Policing Alternatives for Youth Pay" is in the works. It gives those under the age of 17, a warning or summons instead of locking them up for minor offenses.

The ordinance passed unanimously in the criminal justice committee. It will now make its way to the full council for a vote.

The proposed ordinance states that juvenile's parent or guardian would receive a written notice, having the child or teen appear in court.

"Disturbing the peace, possession of marijuana, criminal trespasses, criminal damage to property. These are at the misdemeanor level only," Guidry said.

But will this alternative work?

Louisiana Center for Children's rights believes it will.  According to the center, research shows that the more time juveniles spend in a locked down environment, they are more likely to repeat those offenses. Supports say the ordinance gives children and teenagers a better alternative.

"You're not reading in the newspaper about these types of crimes.The crimes you're reading in the newspaper, aren't applicable in this ordinance," Guidry said.

"These are opportunities to give these kids a chance to realize, 'I didn't do what I was suppose to do, I can get involved in a community based effort. I won't be detained. I won't be placed in handcuffs. And we could have a much better and positive impact on them," Bates-Anderson said.

Guidry says the ordinance could likely go before the full council at their Aug. 10 meeting.

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