SHREVEPORT, La. -- The Caddo Parish Juvenile Detention Center has surpassed capacity.
Juvenile court Judge Paul Young said there were 25 detainees in the 24-bed facility Friday morning. As a result, he said he had to release kids he otherwise would have kept in detention.
"We need that bed space over the weekend, because I'll have a minimum of three or four kids coming in this weekend for things like burglary or robbery,” Young said. “I have to have space for them."
Young said he released two kids Friday morning. One has mental health issues and is accused of beating up his father. Young said that child is now staying with his mother. The other, Young said, acted up in school and violated probation.
Young has a reputation in the halls of the Juvenile Justice Complex of avoiding detention, unless it’s absolutely necessary.
"If the system doesn't respond with an appropriate sanction, then that teaches the kid that there are no sanctions,” Young said. “And that leads to further violations, further offenses, and gets the kid deeper in the system than otherwise he would have if a month ago I'd been able to put him in detention for a week."
The increase in detainees is largely due to Louisiana's new “Raise the Age” law. The first phase of the law took effect in March, requiring all 17-year-olds accused of non-violent crimes to be prosecuted in the juvenile justice system.
The law will expand in July to include 17-year-olds accused of violent crimes.
“Come July 1, with 10 or 15 additional kids coming in, (the detention center will be operating) at 33 to 50 percent over maximum,” Young said. “Of course, that’s intolerable. That can’t happen. So we’ll be releasing kids wholesale.”
Young has been a vocal proponent of expanding the detention center, which he says is the smallest in the southern United States.
As 3 Investigates previously reported, plans are drawn up for the expansion and the money is available to build it. Caddo Parish Commissioners, however, have resisted asking voters to raise the millage in order to cover the operating costs, estimated to be as high as $3 million per year.
Calls to Commission President Stormy Gage-Watts were not returned Friday.