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May 21, 2019

 

Embracing Our Own:

A Statement from Travis Hill NOLA in Response to Recent Calls to Address Juvenile Crime

 

We are local residents, living and working here in the greater New Orleans area with system-involved teens and young adults.  We want a vibrant city where all residents, regardless of their race, their neighborhood, or socioeconomic status have a meaningful chance to thrive, grow and be safe.

 

At Travis Hill NOLA, through our work at the Travis Hill Schools (located inside of the Youth Study Center and the Orleans Justice Center) and the Welcoming Project (our community engagement and transition support program), we work to equip system-involved young people with the academic, workforce readiness, and social and emotional skills they need to be free, successful, contributing members of the New Orleans community.

 

We see our students as fully worthy of our collective embrace: young people who, with love and support, will make the great city of New Orleans even better, now and in the future.  

 

We don’t pretend to have any quick-fix plan that will automatically improve the lot of our City’s most at-risk citizens--young boys, girls, women, and men of color--and ensure that the streets are safe for everyone.  But we are committed, and are excited to lock arms with other individuals and organizations to do the hard work of truly expanding opportunity for all, reducing juvenile and young adult crime, and displacing crime reduction plans rooted in outdated ideas and past failures.  

 

For starters, we need to keep our students in school, and keep them out of the juvenile justice system. This will require an increased use of truly restorative and trauma-informed practices so that at-risk students stay in and succeed at our middle and high schools.

 

We need to hit the streets, and by working collectively with our families, our students, and the broader community, bring people together. Most importantly, we need teens and young adults who are disengaged and involved, or potentially involved, in dangerous behavior to come together, face to face, supported by adults they can trust.  Together, we need to really get at underlying issues, to develop pathways and alternatives to violence and distrust, to develop mutual accountability going forward, to find hope and a reason for being, and to play by the rules. This is hard, but it is what has been done and continues to be done in cities around the country where real, measurable progress has been made to reduce juvenile crime, while improving outcomes for at-risk teens.

 

We need to develop true alternatives to secure detention for the majority of teens and young adults who may have committed a crime but who do not need to be confined while awaiting trial. These alternatives require a commitment that is deeper and more responsive than the ideas District Attorney Cannizzaro proposed in his 8 point plan last week, because they are founded on the notion that young people accused of a delinquent or criminal act are fully deserving and capable humans.

 

Our solutions are not based on locking more young people up, overcharging teens, or excessive bail.  Nor are they reliant on solutions that have proven ineffective (like summer curfews and demanding supervision from parents--instead of providing support to struggling families), or based on stoking fear and misinformation (hinting that the federal consent decree with the NOPD is keeping the police from doing their job and that outside donor interests are trumping the desire of local citizens).

 

Our ideas are based on pulling together, fully embracing our youth, and helping them develop the aspirations and skills that lead them to turn away from violence and toward hope and human connection.

 

We hope you will join us and others to help develop a multi-faceted, community-based approach, supported by solid research and premised on the belief that here in New Orleans, we embrace our own.

 

The Travis Hill NOLA Team