Black Youth: Incarceration in Louisiana

Black Youth: Incarceration in Louisiana

By: Lakischa Smith

In Louisiana, children as young as 10 years-old are being detained in adult prisons. A new report reveals that Louisiana is putting more kids behind bars than any other state, many for offenses like truancy and running away from home.

According to the report by the Washington D.C.-based Prison Policy Initiative, “The number of youth incarcerated in adult prisons in Louisiana is the highest of any state by more than double.”

Black youth are disproportionately targeted. Incarceration can often create an environment for young people where they lose hope and feel like there is no way out. For some this feeling becomes so pervasive that they act out to receive harsh punishments that may include incarceration, even when it is not the most appropriate option.

Take for example 14-year-old Jaquin Thomas. His mother could not afford to pay his court fines and he was sent to a juvenile detention center to serve out his sentence. However, because of overcrowding at the facility, he was transferred and ended up spending two months in an adult prison. Incarcerated at age 14, Jaquin was subjected to sexual harassment and physical abuse. Sadly, ultimately leading him to commit suicide in his jail cell. The fact is incidents like these often lead to the youth losing hope and engaging in criminal activities upon their release.

Activists are fighting back. The report also shows that Black youth are incarcerated for longer periods of time than white youth who commit similar offenses. Community advocacy groups like the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, LA HOOP, and many more are working to mobilize people and prevent future injustices. Incarceration rates have gone down in the state, but there’s still a lot more work that needs to be done.

“You can help by learning about the problem, demanding real solutions from your elected officials, and speaking up any time you see young people in trouble with the law,” the report states. However, I believe there are things we can do instead of waiting for a child to be in trouble with the law, there are actions such as mentorship, community involvement, and education that can help to prevent future injustices. Why wait until the law is involved, by then we have simply waited too long.

Prison needs to be reformed. Incarceration can often lead to a life of crime, mental health issues, and more. We have the choice whether or not we want to be a part of the problem or not.

Lakischa Smith