The smaller post-Katrina New Orleans population could ease the process of revamping the state’s juvenile justice system to focus more on rehabilitation, reports the New Orleans Times-Picayune. At the Bridge City Center for Youth, the state has been able to use the months after the storm, with a smaller population, to remodel more dormitories to meet new standards, said Simon Gonsoulin, the head of the youth development agency. There were 75 inmates at the facility when Katrina hit. The remodeled dorms are part of a push to create a different secure-care environment Louisiana’s three youth prisons, which have been criticized as violent institutions that churn out youths likely to commit crimes once they are released.
The redesigned, more homey surroundings, which resemble college dormitories, will be coupled with “therapeutic” supervision modeled after the treatment provided in Missouri facilities, which are considered the best in the nation. With staff-intensive programs focused on rehabilitation, Missouri has a juvenile recidivism rate much lower than many other states, including Louisiana. When Katrina hit Louisiana, there were 1,297 youths in the state juvenile justice system, including 521 in youth prisons. By the end of November the total number shrank to 1,188, with 453 young offenders in a secure-care facility.