On March 22nd, 2012, The Lens welcomed five panelists and over 100 attendees to its third salon at the Ashe Cultural Arts Center, which focused on the status of the juvenile justice system in the New Orleans area.
Panelists were queried by the moderator on issues surrounding the new French Quarter youth curfew, LGBTQ youth issues in juvenile facilities, the rebuilding of the Youth Studies Center, the school to prison pipeline, and the New Orleans Parish Prison. Audience members were then invited to pose their own questions to the panel.
Dana Kaplan - Executive Director of Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana
Wes Ware - Founder & Director of BreakOUT!
Michael Bradley - Deputy Chief District Defender at Orleans Public Defenders
Eden Heilman - Senior Staff Attorney at Southern Poverty Law Center
Alison McCrary - Soros Justice Advocacy Fellow at Safe Streets/Strong Communities
This panel was one in a series of events held by The Lens to engage readers and New Orleans stakeholders on current issues.
Thanks to all of our panelists for lending their time and insight, the Ashe Cultural Arts Center for the use of their space, Il Posto and Dorignac’s for their contributions, and to everyone who attended.
Strong antipsychotic medications are being prescribed to incarcerated juveniles across Louisiana despite lacking diagnoses for the conditions they were designed to treat, according to an investigative report by New Orlean’s The Lens.
The medications are meant to help with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. After examining their records, The Lens found 22 percent of medications prescribed in eight Louisiana facilities were designed to treat bipolar disorder. But, only five percent of diagnoses were of bipolar, the investigative news site found. No diagnoses of schizophrenia were made.
The most common diagnosis (found in 20 percent of incarcerated juveniles) was “conduct disorder. " Symptoms of this disorder include defiant, impulsive behavior, drug use and criminal activity.
“There are some youth who should receive medications who aren’t,” Will Harrell, a federal monitor of juvenile justice systems, told The Lens. “But there’s also kids who are being medically restrained. Sometimes it’s easier to deal with disruptive kids by drugging them, than doing anything else.”
According to August Collins, director of youth advocacy at the Youth Empowerment Project, the drugs are used to numb the inmate into submission, making it difficult to rehabilitate them.
“We need to set stricter guidelines on prescribing this stuff and quit treating diagnosis of a kid as an assembly line,” Collins told The Lens. “We’ve had kids sleeping in classes like they’re stoned out of their minds. It’s difficult to give these kids insight into who they are if they can’t even stay awake.”