City Considers Alternatives to Arrest for Children

New Orleans City Council is currently considering a policy to help reduce the number of children who are unnecessarily pulled into the justice system.

For almost three years, the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights has worked with councilmembers, NOPD, the mayor’s office, and juvenile court to craft the Policing Alternatives for Youth (PAY) ordinance.  The policy provides police officers with a variety of responses to children engaged in minor misbehavior.  Rather than arrest and transport every child to booking, officers will have the option to issue a warning or summons depending on the severity of the offense and a child’s prior history.

This continuum of responses is key to the success of both our children and our communities.  Studies show that children who are arrested, even for low-level offenses, are more likely to drop out of school, re-offend in the future, and be arrested as an adult.

That is a high price to pay for behavior that, while not to be encouraged, stems from normal adolescent tendencies: increased risk-taking, boundary testing, and susceptibility to peer pressure.

For many kids, this kind of troublemaking is, rightfully, addressed by their family or school.  Only certain children are being brought into the justice system for these minor misbehaviors: last year, 96% of the children arrested in New Orleans were black.

If passed, the PAY ordinance will help address this astounding racial disparity by mandating that we respond to black children in the same age-appropriate, productive ways as we do their white peers.  It will reduce unnecessary arrests and the outsized consequences it has on children’s futures. It will, in sum, improve the health and safety of New Orleans’ kids and communities, and we urge the Council to pass it.

The PAY ordinance was approved by City Council’s criminal justice committee and now heads to the full Council for a final vote, tentatively scheduled for Thursday, August 10.  For more information, click here