DA: Teens charged with violent crimes will face adult prosecution

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — In an effort to reduce youth crime, a Southwest Louisiana prosecutor said his office will begin charging teens who commit violent crimes, such as murder or rape, as than adults.

District Attorney Don Landry said his office, which covers Acadia, Lafayette and Vermilion Parishes, is ready to move in that direction.

“If minors want to use firearms and commit violent crimes in the 15th Judicial District as adults, then they will be prosecuted as adults,” he said. “We must deter our minors from committing these crimes, and we must aggressively prosecute them if they choose to commit these violent crimes.”

If a person aged 15, 16 or 17 is charged with committing a violent crime such as murder, rape, kidnapping, robbery, aggravated burglary or aggravated battery, Landry said he would bring the case before a grand jury, which could then indict the teenager as an adult, the announcer reported.

Landry said he made the decision after hearing from victims’ families, particularly in murder cases, where the family “faces all the heartache” to have shorter caps on sentences for minors.

He also pointed to an increase in violent youth crime.

Since July, there have been nine minors in Lafayette Parish charged with first or second degree murder, two in Acadia and one in Vermilion. The number of minors charged with attempted murder in the first or second degree increases to 26 in Lafayette Parish, 19 in Acadia and three in Vermilion.

But punitive measures don’t actually work to tackle violent crime, argued John James, a youth and family advocate for Families and Friends of Louisiana Incarcerated Children, a group that works to prevent children to go to prison and to support those who have it.

“We’re talking about Louisiana where we know one of the main things we’re leading in is incarceration,” he said. “So if we thought incarceration was the answer, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.”

James argues that prosecuting teenagers as adults does not help keep communities safer or reduce the recidivism rate, which is the likelihood that a person will re-offend.

“Evidence shows that transferring young people to adult criminal court does not make our communities safer or reduce recidivism,” he said. “In fact, transfer greatly increases the likelihood that a young person will have further contact with the criminal justice system. »

Instead, teens who commit crimes benefit from a juvenile system that addresses underlying trauma and grief, provides mental health interventions and offers education while holding them accountable, James said.

It has been shown that things like decent wages for workers, trauma-informed schools that don’t have a zero-tolerance policy, access to physical and mental health care, affordable housing and other Community investments are making a difference in reducing crime, he said.

Landry said he plans to go to schools to warn teenagers that their actions, if deemed violent, will have the same consequences as those of adults. He hopes such a warning will be enough to deter them before they commit a crime.

“People should be able to be safe in their homes,” Landry said.

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