Friday, April 19, 2024

Senate Committee Advances Juvenile Public Records Bill

by BPT Staff
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Piper Naudin | LSU Manship School News Service

BATON ROUGE—A Senate Judiciary committee narrowly advanced a bill Monday to make public records related to juveniles charged with crimes.

The committee amended the bill, which had already passed in the House, and then moved it forward in a 5-3 vote.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tony Bacala, R-Prairieville, was amended to publicly release only minute entries as a means to grant victims with more access to information on criminal proceedings.

The minute entries could include arrest and bail information, criminal charges, trial proceedings, hearings, court dates and the identities of those involved with the case.

Bacala said he believes it is necessary to “hold some of these children responsible at an earlier age” to encourage accountability and discourage recidivism.

Mothers, grandmothers and families came to testify on behalf of victims of juvenile offenders, filling up the small committee room.

Elizabeth Hansard was one of the supporters of the bill. She came on behalf of her son Noah, who was left paralyzed by two shooters during an armed robbery.

Out of safety concerns, Hansard said had to leave her home in Orleans Parish and move to a new community. Despite being the victim, her son’s name was the only one being circulated online.

“It should be the shooter’s name on the internet,” Hansard said. “We need to work together on this. We really need transparency.”
Sharolyn Price’s youngest child Brandon was killed by juveniles. She said two suspects are in custody, and one has not been arrested. One of them was on probation and had had multiple arrests, she said.

Dorothy White, the grandmother of a victim, said: “Transparency. We need it. We don’t have it.”

White’s grandson Darrell Scott was shot by a 13-year-old who had previously shot another man and then had escaped from prison for 10 days.

Republican Gov. Jeff Landry’s team and the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association support the bill.

Representatives, lawyers and volunteers opposed to the bill raised their concerns about the risks of releasing the private information of juvenile criminals.

Rep. Alonzo Knox, D-New Orleans, objected to certain aspects of the program, worrying that it could put juveniles’ private information at risk when it comes to their future jobs, cyberbullying, and discrimination.

Some questioned how to define victims in these situations.

“All of the people who testified for this bill knew the perpetrator’s identity,” Sarah Whittington, an attorney for the Justice and Accountability Center of Louisiana, said. “So how are they getting those if there is no transparency? This could have a terrible impact on a child’s life.”

Additionally, Whittington was concerned what would happen if records were sealed or expunged. She worried that innocent minors would not be able to escape the consequences of a criminal record.

Ashley Hill Hamilton, policy director of the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, highlighted the need for providing children with support to keep them away from crime as opposed to only focusing on them before they commit crimes.

“People on both sides are affected. The district attorney is responsible for communicating with victims,” Hamilton said.

Sen. Royce Duplessis, D-New Orleans, also was critical of minors having their information released pre-conviction when they could be innocent.

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