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As a signatory to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s letter to the Dept. of Education renewing a request for an investigation, Gina Womack, Co-founder and Executive Director of Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children issued the following statement this past week:

We are outright disgusted with the failure of leadership in this state to treat children with dignity, and respect their human rights. Youth do not belong in adult facilities, and they certainly do not deserve the violence, abuse, and trauma that the Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ) continues to inflict upon them. Young people need education services and mental health supports to learn from their mistakes and grow into contributing members of our community. Federal intervention is direly needed because our state leaders have proved to be either unable or unwilling to effectively or humanely care for youth in their custody.

For years, OJJ has been abusing children, mismanaging funds, and eluding accountability, which, among other things, has resulted in a system in chaos, the trauma of youth and families, lack of education and rehabilitation services, and the inability to recruit or retain staff. While OJJ continues to blame kids and shuffle them in and out of different facilities, they are simply distracting policymakers from recognizing their systemic failures. It is truly a system of violence, and we must stop this horrific cycle. The real solution is clearly stated and outlined by youth justice experts in the Missouri Model and in our own Act 1225 of 2003. The state must invest in transforming our system into a holistic and therapeutic model of care.