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FROM: Associated Press

Poll shows support for juvenile justice reforms
Associated Press
By Adam Nossiter

The Associated Press
5/13/03 7:22 PM

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- A majority of Louisianians support the goals of juvenile justice reformers, a poll released Tuesday shows.

Scandals at prisons for juvenile offenders and Louisiana's high rate of youth incarceration have led to a major push to overhaul juvenile justice in this year's legislative session.

Awaiting Senate approval are bills to close the most notorious of the juvenile prisons, Tallulah, and to begin a transfer of jurisdiction over youthful offenders from the state's prisons department to a brand-new executive department.

The poll was released by the Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL) and the YouWho coalition and compiled by the Public Policy Research Lab at LSU.

The poll of 498 state residents was conducted by phone between March 31 and April 22 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.

A key goal among reformers is to move youth from prisons to less strict settings like group homes. In the poll, 78 percent of respondents said Louisiana's juvenile justice system should concentrate on "rehabilitative programs."

In addition, 76 percent say it is less expensive to rehabilitate youth than to keep them in jail and 82 percent think most youthful offenders can potentially be rehabilitated. Still, 69 percent think that tough treatment of offending youth is likely to head off future law-breaking.

"It's no surprise that citizens want to hold youthful offenders accountable for their actions, but they want to be effective, and they're very open to doing things differently than we're doing now," said Barry Erwin, the president of CABL, in a prepared statement released with the poll results.

Associated Press



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