Mar 19, 2017|
United Way’s Terri Westerfield discusses the many services offered by the United Way of Southeast Louisiana.
United Way’s Terri Westerfield discusses the many services offered by the United Way of Southeast Louisiana.
United Way’s Terri Westerfield discusses the many services offered by the United Way of Southeast Louisiana.
Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)
Everybody welcome to united way of live united I mean Terri Westerfield. And joining me today I have friends in from the Louisiana center for children's rights I want to welcome to the program. Aerial has to is the supervising attorney for our children's defense T welcome how are you aerial I'm well thank you so much for having. And also joining us today Katie walker Katie is the coordinator of the campaign to end extreme sentences for youth okay thank you. And all joining us today pretty slight who is the communications manager for a Louisiana center for children's rights. And it. I'm glad girl Hewlett it's so many important things that are going on the work that you're doing. And is priced around your new partner and got a way of southeast Louisiana. And then united way of southeast Louisiana we have a blueprint for prosperity to eradicate poverty in our region. We're street to strategically investing. In programs and initiatives collaborations and advocacy efforts to meet our communities Greece needs. We have a bold vision of equitable communities are all individuals are healthy educated and economically stable. In Jefferson Orleans plaque and then Saint Bernard saint Tammany tend to Baja and Washington parishes. And we know that children in poverty are often more vulnerable who their circumstances. And to crime. The Louisiana center for children's rights he had to wait in the impact partner. Is providing wraparound care and ballistic advocacy. For hundreds of children who have fallen into the new world and juvenile justice system. Ever we're talking a bit before the show maybe this is kind of where you can. Talk more about. How old this whole group can be organized in and some other brief overview that you're doing if you were people re getting to some of the specific. Absolutely so can excuse me. That Louisiana center for children's rights is a nonprofit law office and we defend the rights of kids involved in the juvenile justice system whether that's in court. At City Hall or at the state legislature. So our offices really unique in that we combine both direct services to system involves children. As well as advocates for their contrasts at the state and local level. So on the direct services side we act as Lee juvenile public defenders in Orleans parish. Meaning that we represent about 90% of the children who are involved in the juvenile justice system here in the city. And then on advocacy site we work for policy changes in the larger systems. Both here in New Orleans but also on the state level. Ameren I guess the next what you might be for Arial but wouldn't worry you've just mentioned. That the children were put into our do justice system how does that happen are we talking major crime petty crime across the board crime. It's really across the board how children and to assist them and it's. Generally it's star initiated with an arrest of a child they either and on their status offenses for Sam can't. Which are habitual truancy which is just missing school or being an upper level not following their group that rules of their household. Those things can lead to court involvement and for all levels of cases from those what are caught status offenses although in action and much more Syrians. Criminal offenses that you might. Blessed are serious and says we're representing Allen says cats now for juvenile justice or juvenile crime is it like adults in the sense that. They're different stages as you mentioned something from Turin sea birds is you burglarized and went home that we had greater. Spectrum there but. Does it keep getting happier than penalties for juveniles. Yes the penalty is are more serious they are more serious the offense is alleged. I am but the court involvement and sometimes look exactly the same no matter what that child has been involved in the system far. And that's part of the reason I Wii has this holistic defense is recognizing that once a child is involved in court the court isn't just concerned with what's happening in our legal K if but they're looking at the whole child and that's the same thing that we try to do at LT CIR and in their children to sixteen. Is make sure that we're connecting kids that were working went. T advocates and social worker so we're not just looking at the legal side of decades but we're looking at how can we help that's how to be successful. When they leave court. Because sometimes a crime and it be oversimplifying here but. It could be your top perhaps some poverty caddie and couple days you're signed to go to a local store and that. Basically you'd hate breakfast or lunch order of the case may be your Hungary. You don't every alternative at that time you feel like you know nobody's gonna miss this. They get map now there trouble. But how do you stop this you look at everything else that's going on the mom or dad had been home for three days again no food in the house the top left on his or her own. Well there's much more at stake here. And it isn't really worth being sentenced to some kind of tying. A juvenile detention center. Exactly and sometimes it's very hard for the families to navigate away or resource is there are and even our attorneys in the delinquencies guy. In the criminal side if things don't always know what's out there for and I think he around housing or around this is security so we also have a civil attorney. Who helps to do those things spread they kids that are involved in the system and that's been hugely important is when the social workers sat. I think we need to help these kids this family with this larger issue is having another attorney who can comment on the simplest fat side and eighties as the collateral consequences of their core involve men. That we can help address now that we know that their agents. And some of those issues if you can prevent them. And by working with others that we're all the better for. The children and we as a community and certainly were hoping to set and one quarter better path yes definitely at a homeless family is going to be at risk not only for just that the sorrow that is a family that town lends. But what does what position those kids are and whether or not they're able to go to school every day whether or not they're able to get the education that they deserved. And so we can help increase stability in other pieces of their life. It definitely helps their legal case but it also hopefully helps the child are. No wonder it in Italy's again I'm not sure who would like to best answer this and boat it can weigh in at the same time even. But right now we're trying to guess where where we're looking a holistic approach Virginia's what do you can't a trial enforcement perhaps. That child has it just. Undue influence shall we say. And here she finds themselves do more than petty crime they've been content involved isn't is yours yours may be exit more than property it's even injuring another human being. Wow also in the stakes have changed. What happens now tolerant go and how do you advocate for war with the job. I think that our I think you see it looks similar was really wanted to do is recognize that if anything they can't even at a low level. But it can be really important especially for those more theories than Anthony be Katie can speak to this as wow. Is I'm recognizing the mitigation needs to beat and that's also where our social workers can con man and say here's an explanations for the behavior that we've seen. I am and this is the and it ends based way to address some of those issues and also this is why treating the child as a child despite the seriousness of what they might have been alleged to you still makes the most. Okay. Yeah I'm the policies out of things so. Essentially and we are trying to and the practice of sentencing. Kids to die in prison. So essentially you know given a life without parole sentences have been limited over the past few years by a series of Supreme Court cases. But it said that these sentences issued are unconstitutional. And all but the rarest of cases involving the rare and uncommon child. So is it huge arguments talking sociopath or something that someone that can't be little chance rehabilitation that is in theory what the punishment should be preserved for but what we're seeing in practice is that is not the case. So and Louisiana since 2012 when these decisions came down. 82% of those kids who have faced you now have a app provinces. Have received them. So you're talking about a kid who made it art that which are back were we at the beginning today. Comes from all the home mom to no no parental guidance hungry maybe it's even been to screw. No commits one minor offense that did a lot of being able to have opportunity others coming to his or her age. X you know they just progress. And one leads to another and it snowballs. Into crimes that just keep going up and up and out. Next thing you know perhaps there has been sending withers manslaughter or in the case may beat out an intentional. Crime that took someone's life. Because perhaps child literally knows about are always right. Land in Louisiana even kids who are not the triggerman and so to speak can receive a life about pearl said doctor in the car and a friend or someone gears up and got. Choose summons in the commission of robbery or something error we know as many of 45 of the 300 roughly. Men and women who are serving in my but admiral senses or not the actual term. What was it armed protocol to you that you mentioned tweet tweet while was. But some birdies on the back and wait in you know thirteen year old fourteen kids can be tried as adults and should be. It is the summit was just sweeping the country. Or was there a particular. Cases are circumstances in Louisiana and you were all it's the emotion it's a wind and the legacy of the whole super predators scare. We basically spent the last twenty years. Making it easier for her kids to be treated as adults in the criminal justice system. So in the 1990s. Because of mandatory minimums and kids being transferred to adult. Criminal court systems more kid starting getting these human olive about parole sentences. And the problem is that because they are mandatory sentences judges were prohibited from considering individualized circumstances. Of the particular cases so I judge wasn't able to consider the fact that. The kid came from history of substance abuse or mental health issues. Regardless they received elect about Ross built at or for the judge it was just your she had to get a map to yours and cracked. And so as an example. Leno flying man is currently in jail. You received and life without parole sentence when he was fifteen. He had a history of mental health issues he had tried to commit suicide. Three times by the time he was known years old. And dropped out of school because and learning disabilities that are addressed. And so he ended up hanging out with these older boys and eighteen. Girls and 29 year old man. And while they were to gather. Toby was in the car and these two. At acquaintances of his way into a convenience store. Shot and killed and robbed the store clerk now and Toby even though he was. Not in the storage unit had no knowledge of what their hands more now she received without pearl in his style and present at. And it go. And now that are. No it's let's let's talk about that because you are you have these fifteen year old in that case. And others he's really interest you permit issued to review before we were. We're taping today but the cost of it so. Not even the the human cost of life and and what's going on but just the financial cost to we as taxpayers and others. To keep someone like that in jail if it doesn't make sense and I'm looking at the man. And all it does is add up to go wow. Why are we doing this yeah I mean under currently is outlawed these people regardless of how long they've been in prison don't have an opportunity to go before a Parole Board. And say ham look I'm not who I was when I was fifteen. I mean I think ever on at this around a table and agreed like we are not who we were mere fifty. So right now essentially. The state is paying to warehouse people that pose no public for. Well this it does it to to others that now especially in our region and in New Orleans parish that we're seeing what can we do. To agent put putting people. In the present I couldn't make sure that. They can be rehabilitated we're going to have access to educational services to be able to learn a job that not only that but. The chance to roll to come out and it actually have a place to live. Heavy skillet or develop it ready for job so that they don't come out and then fall right back to quote a lifestyle. And that's I would think particularly important for the juvenile offenders it gives an opportunity to actually have a life. And that's what the purpose that the juvenile system is supposed to be at supposed to be focused on her rehabilitation and that's the guidance that the judges half from the code. And I'm should be the underlying principle but when your removing these kids from the didn't have to stand there and strengthening with a purpose isn't rehabilitation. And sell. If I I think that. Others that he able to speak to what happens in the adult system more can I see what happens and then system for children but what we're trying to do is make sure that rehabilitation is a fit for the child's needs and recognizing her chat complete can't deal. If you can't just. Force a child to do a vocational program that not help address the other circumstances. Not. Not recognize is you know maybe they're showing up to that program and their really tired because you haven't looked at the fact that they're sharing around with five siblings. And so that's why we think it's important to get in there and talk to each of the kids that are working. I would imagine that a lot of this and get some more information Ernie thank you did you sense of this and clicking on two and it goes back to I we do a lot whip. Early childhood. Education bear with me because I don't. And the greens are bringing us up we know how the brain develops and the synopsis an opportunity to learn more languages and so many more things before the age of four and things start to change. Well your brain is continually changing up to a certain point. And specifically. Again I was so taken by this. Our own children into serving life sentence is a chance at redemption and talking about the brain. Talking about how it changes how it develops and here's adolescent brain development kids are fundamentally different from adults. And yet we're giving them the same sentences. And not only pretending they are adults are thank our eyes and her eyes say that and treating them as they are adults. And also expecting them to behave as adults they are not. Adults in anyway shape they're physically incapable because of their brains to make. Mature rational decisions in the same and that adults are. You know we know like this researched the Supreme Court decisions are based on research confirming what we know. From our own experiences which is that. Kids do dumb like they're physically and capable of being able to when a risk first reward there are susceptible to appear. Pressure. And that's not to say that children not be held accountable especially when we all agree on exactly especially when it's a very serious crime though we also know that we can't just treat them as little adults being rise exactly their brains are different. And they are more susceptible to their environments and always have to take that into consideration. When I think it's worth clarifying and that and our advocacy around you and life without parole or not. Trying to get these kids in jail and get out of jail free cards like. We do trust the experts on a Parole Board to be able to determine whether these kids have in fact changed whether they're rehabilitated. So. What's it Avery wants safeguards let's be honest. The tickets were quote little angels they would not be within the system by the same token don't like be saved. You're seeing it because behind bars how come we do it to make it better so there is an opportunity. That this child who grows up to become an adult he or she. Can may be one day get out. Or if they can't if they're behind bars. What do they do with the life that didn't just being good part of the problem mass incarceration. And a great example of that is we have a woman named misty who was sentenced to do now life without parole. Bo is actually released after serving ten years she's kind of strange case by so new facts came up in her case. But she's sad you know for the first several years she was in there she was surprised because you know she thought she is spending the rest of life in jail as a sixteen hurled. But once she started getting involved in the programming. Her life really took a turn and her main focus was. Working in horticulture program at one and present that she was that and once you as or at least she was able to use those skills to start her own landscaping business and now. The seas and Al for thirteen years now and Sheila and I generation has three kids and a husband and her own landscaping business. So there are ways to get people skills give them the tools. And if they are ready to be able. You know we've president of the star life of their own government to business or family. So now she's independent. Self reliance and as fairly say it important tax paying. Part of the community absolutely she's turning around. We also know that may not be a case for everyone but the opportunity. Could be there. Is it really if we reach and on the finance what is to reach them as adolescence. Given the opportunity to build that skills I would think also to have the confidence to trust. Because isn't that we're the biggest issues you often find. With those who are. Have had problems who have now been published in the journal. I justice system that they don't ask don't they don't trust anyone in the and that's part of the problem that that they have to tackle every day. You mean it took an hour here at. I think we definitely have to work to overcome and trust issues and system failures because that's what a lot of the kids. That I interact with have experienced they've had a lot of you know mental health providers that sat I'm gonna punch your house every week and then after two weeks they just not showing that he now. And a lot of people who set I really care we have to say and then failed Telus and had and what we believe as that I actually listening to the kids that we work well actually saying these are some things we think could help you what do you think and then. Following through and act. That we can. Overcomes some of those hostages but I always say when I'm working with a client and we have new people coming into our office the most important thing you can do is never make a promise that you can completely when he talked. Because so many people have done. Number one problem that you see right now wouldn't that kids. That that would digital system and I know there's a myriad of them but is there one that stands in your mind. And I think an issue that aces and most of the kids that I work with is that trauma that they had experienced. Any number. Different avenues whether it's that they went through Katrina whether it's that they experienced homelessness or whether it's a witness to Thailand's. They have suffered trauma and they haven't received any treatment that truly address it. Think Thomas such an interesting thing because I was intrigued used to it as a lawyer conceptually I I. This is just an excuse for behavior. And it's not going to lead to anything it's just I think meaning a problem but what I've learned through working with the social workers in our office and going through training and that. True rom that any experiences of trauma can really be dealt with through equality mental health treatment and therapy. And sell. We want to be able to provide that to our heads and to sort of recognize that they have gone through something that. In pack the development of their brain and really important ways impact their ability to make good decisions and how can we help them to get through. And big enough counseling perhaps that some of the kids that are in juvenile. Just keeps saying this is the right now but they wouldn't have an opportunity for quote unquote what is the normal life but a normal life. And it could get how they would not have to. Be incarcerated for the rest of Indian a better position ten make better decisions because we're not saying kids can ever make good decisions but sometimes they make outlines and so really helping kids understand. That they might be hyper vigilant because it's something they went through but that doesn't mean that they need to carry and I can because that is just fact hyper vigilance it's not appropriate vigilant they don't know. And so we wanna help them understand and they say we I mean. You know our office what's the connection that with professionals who they can do about her relationship you can help. But again if you live neighborhood and everyone is caring and on until it goes back to circumstances. And not knowing any different. The way they live that's how they think they need to survive and rise. Yeah I mean I think that that's a common to render a lot of the cases that we see where kids have been sentenced to die and and prison. And I'll we have. I keep coming at the start of attachment let nobody does so and tackle he's hurting people these are I think to many of us is just statistics. It's just information. These are lying she's a human teaser young men and women so I'm just really kids. But it put away for at that point the rest of their lives. And so we have. I think a story that a lot of New Orleans would be familiar with we had aid. A man whose name is clue as to when he was a teenager he was came for a very important neighborhood in New Orleans. His parents had substance abuse issues and he had a very ageless kind of recruited to help. Older boys in the neighborhood sell trucks and so he was started on the pass from an area needs. And by the time of the incident in humans seventeen and he was involved in a shootout that left. One man that. And it's. Lewis is now you know and just has done everything you possibly could imprisoned by Sheikh. I was speaking to actually another person who was present during that and acts and then shot and survived. Who wants Louis to be given a second chance because he sat. That's how we girl we didn't know any better. And now I have had the opportunity to then move on with my life and he is successful photographer and in Atlanta Dowling said Lewis. Should have that opportunity as well and you know just our roles to it as. Easily and switched when you're what he's done every lose is that he can't you meet in terms of programs and counseling things that have an offer to after Lisa is an education and he's now working. At the Louisiana aviation service is and he'd have a lot. You know in prison and then at his workplace. And had. Maybe from left field here but we often see the different people become mentors when they got out they go in talk and then you hear of a scare story. Do those work deserves help children one or the other. Or is it just. Good quote unquote reality television. I think evidence shows that scared straight programs don't work OK guys. That bringing kids into ankle lets see what their life you know could be Condit is not going to meet you are changing packet is not that actually. You know listening and that addressing their needs are recognizing strength that's how we can help change which after. What's the number one thing that needs to be done right now in terms of changing path trajectory. Is trying to. To change the laws that children for certain you will no longer be sent. To jail for crimes. It's it's it. I think it's a complex issue because what we see as a root causes of children committing offenses are things that are in many ways out of our control right so. We need. In New Orleans and across the state better education we need help lift people out of poverty. These are the root causes of children. Doing bad behavior. And those are really the things that need to be it. Go ahead please I was losing to say you know I think we need to empower people to be able to make different choices because you know when me. We offer only talk about kids gunned a throw before the Parole Board you know we're talking about second chances but for many of these kids. It's fair to say that this is really their first chance. And that it please expand on it if you don't mind because that that's that is it because. They didn't have a real chance before their boom put in jail and out of prison so now it's because they're getting. Forming healthy of sorts I I think our circumstances. Restrict our ability to make choices and your. You know if you come from a broken home or you know used the example earlier of a kid. Who's hungry. And decides to rob a convenience store because he has no other choice. And I think that we offering get caught up talking you know particularly. Right now I as the justice for investment task force is doing their work around criminal justice. We talk about cost savings but I think. For these kids it's about like showing compassion showing mercy and understanding them not a statistics but as people. Who came from very particular background. I. Nobody in is a complex issue this is just of one and done and all things that you're doing is figuring my hand in glove. And I know that you see this and the accuracy as you move forward. I was looking at that you have for 2017. And usher who can best address that is it Renee you know our. Eighty I don't know if you ever get some things that are going on as you work towards these issues and how can you make it better for the kids that are jammed. Absolutely so like I said. We it we believe that there are these larger issues of poverty and education but with the situation we have now we are trying to batter. Outcomes for children and for the communities that they come from so that's really what unites our work on the policy and direct services side is that. We hope tank. Through policy keep as many children out of the system as we can't. But if they do entered a system making sure that Juan they have the past legal representation that they can have couples with this holistic approach. Through social work workers and youth advocates. And then again with the policy making sure that if they are within a system that they are getting the best. You know education in custody of the past mental health treatment costs and possibly can't. Weller wrote Katie ready. You all very dedicated to this for all of moralist and today who want more information. Or like to somehow. Be involved how can it be is there were a place for volunteer ism. And kind of work you do I'm thinking either attorneys that would be welcome on board there caseworkers out there true. My hit that one minute of the day a lot that I have and are committed to helping but how could people who who are very intrigued. And want to become more involved with these issues helping children. What can they do. So I would say to visit our website at LA CCR dot org. Where you can find out about the volunteer opportunities and legal fellowships and things of that nature. I would also encourage people to sign up for our newsletter. Will be during the legislative session. Sending out action dollars. So telling people how they can get involved with the work that we're doing and again that app now AC CR stop work. He's ready final note that I I'd go around rob a real quick. That that likely aren't listening audience where it today. I think the big thing that I'd like to share in is dead. How much hope there is in children that I work when he might be hot at an assist and and making sure that we remember that ad out and more than any growth. I would just encourage people as I said earlier to. Consider where making policies about other people that think of them as people and not. You know these kids in the context of human life without parole. Their lives have been defined by their crimes but that's not entirely who they are as people and they've become and who then become. Governments are real quick pick and we didn't get that figure but. Over thirteen and a half billion dollars. Dickey who was a child now an aging adults behind bars or mail it you have the last word I just say that we need to remember that. Kids are kids and we need to treatment such and placating factor and compassion when needed. Thank you also there are so many more things to talk about is just barely scan the service I hope that you won't come back what you yeah. All right thank you so very much. Arrow that's supervising attorney for our children's defense team Katie walker coordinator of the campaign to an extreme sentences for use. And Renee Selena was the communications manager Phillip he's at the center for children's rights I'm Terry Westerfield thank you for joining us and live unite.