By Tracy Campbell
Lion Judge Sherb Sentell provided the presentation for Thursday’s regularly scheduled meeting of the Minden Lions Club.
Lion Sentell, Minden City Court judge, spoke about the challenges surrounding juvenile crime and juvenile detention in the area. He spoke about the lack of “bed space” at Ware Youth Center in Coushatta – currently, Webster Parish is allotted just two beds for juveniles ages 10 to 16 that commit criminal activity. In comparison, Bossier Parish is allotted 24 beds. This often results in local juvenile offenders that commit “lesser crimes” being released so that others can be detained.
“If someone knocks your kid’s front teeth out at school as part of a gang initiation, I’m not going to release the kid that burned a house down to free up a bed,” Lion Sentell said. “So I have to say, ‘Now don’t you knock someone’s teeth out again’ and send them home to their parents or grandparents. There’s just no alternative.”
Lion Sentell discussed juvenile gang activity in Minden and the lack of the family unit among these youth. He also praised programs such as Project Reclaim Leadership Academy, helmed by Ron Anderson, which teaches area youth leadership skills, social skills training, and relationship development.
“The grandparents are often raising these kids because mama and daddy aren’t in the picture,” he said. “Oftentimes the grandparents are doing all they can do, but it’s just more than they can handle. Some are working multiple jobs to make ends meet and it’s impossible to supervise the kids all hours of the day.”
Lion Sentell said that a regional meeting will be held in March at Ware to further discuss the problem of pre-adjudication detention. Representatives from 10 parishes have been invited to attend. He says he believes Webster Parish needs a total of eight beds, and other parishes that utilize Ware also need extra capacity.
To accomplish this, Lion Sentell says it would require solutions such as an expansion of the detention center, additional detention officers, and an increase of financial resources for the facility. This would require multiple parishes to share in the cost. It currently costs around $300 per day to house a juvenile at Ware, and the parish or city is responsible for covering $110 of those daily costs.
“This problem needs to rise to the top of the priority list,” Lion Sentell said. “Juvenile detention is a much-needed public service. Please support your local elected officials as they work to address these issues.”
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