Friday, June 22, 2007

Can’t Blame the Youth

From the written testimony, submitted before the actual testimony, of Chief Judge David L. Bell, Orleans Parish Juvenile Court for the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing "Rising Violent Crime in the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina" on June 20, 2007:
OPJC presently has six hundred eighty-nine (689) open delinquency cases. From January 1, 2007 through today, the New Orleans Police Department arrested approximately eight-hundred (800) juveniles and the New Orleans District Attorneys Office Juvenile Division filed two hundred and eighty four (284) new delinquency petitions. Based on the new petitions we are seeing significant drug use, which we believe is a result of unaddressed trauma and mental health needs, a direct result of Katrina. For example, 28% of the cases that come before the court are for possession of narcotics.1 Most of the youth appearing before the court, eighty-two percent (82%), are fifteen to seventeen years old (15-17) who have unaddressed educational needs and lack the skills to obtain gainful employment.2

We are seeing an increase in disproportionate minority contact even though the population of New Orleans has changed since Katrina3; ninety-three percent (93%) of delinquency petitions filed are young people of color.4


1 25% burglary/theft/trespass; 15% abuse/assault/battery; 11% robbery; and 9% weapons.

2 0.5% are 8 yrs old; 2% are 11 yrs old; 3.9% are 13 yrs old; 12% are 14 yrs old; 18% are 15 yrs
old; 26% are 16 yrs old; 38% are 17 yrs old, 0.5% are 18 yrs old.

3 47% African American; 43% White

4 79% African American male; 14 % African American female; 2.8% White male .08% White female.
The judge is seeing “significant drug use,” “unaddressed trauma and mental health needs,” and “unaddressed educational needs” in the juveniles that show up in court and they “lack the skills to obtain gainful employment.” And 93 percent of the delinquency petitions filed are for African American youths.

The judge probably doesn’t have statistics for the racial breakdown of the NOPD’s juvenile arrests. But, would anyone be surprised if 93 percent of them were also black?

We are damning a generation of African Americans by neglect.

We are neglecting education in African American neighborhoods. What schools have been closed the longest? How many schools are selective or cap enrollment?

We are neglecting infrastructure in African American neighborhoods. Drive through any of them.

We are neglecting security in African American neighborhoods. The clusters of murders are all in black neighborhoods.

We are neglecting jobs in African American neighborhoods. Nothing new there.

We are neglecting healthcare in African American neighborhoods. Charity? And what about preventive healthcare?

“But, wait,” one might say. “It’s the poor we are neglecting.” Race and poverty dance together in New Orleans.

Why do the numbers keep coming out this way? Look at the faces of the murdered. Overwhelmingly black. Look at the faces of the incarcerated. Overwhelmingly black. Look at the faces of the public housing residents living in substandard housing. Overwhelmingly black. Look at the faces of the public school students in a public school system that was failing before the storm. Overwhelmingly black. Look at the faces of the youths in the juvenile court. Overwhelmingly black.

Look at the faces in New Orleans. They are not overwhelmingly black. New Orleans’ population is no longer 66 percent African American. They are the ones who have not returned, or can not return.

Racial injustice. Neglect. They dance together, too.


The German said...

"We are neglecting infrastructure in African American neighborhoods". Exactly, Just drive down Fleur de Lis in Lakeview and... wait, that street is terrible and in a white neighborhood. An aberration? Infrastructure is neglected in all New Orleans, not just Black New Orleans.

da po' boy said...

Infrastructure is neglected in all New Orleans, not just Black New Orleans.

That does not negate my statement as it pertains to this post. You are correct. But I am not talking about Lakeview. I mention infrastructure in black neighborhoods as one piece in a larger puzzle of neglect, which is observable in the non-flooded black neighborhoods as well as the flooded areas.

Your point is valid. Just not relevant to this post.

Thanks for commenting - and I appreciate the sarcasm.

The German said...

The Judge is right, if you are not black or involved in the drug trade, then you are as safe in NO as in any other city. How do we fix this? We can't make people not be black, but we can do something about drugs. This is a perfect opportunity to de-criminalize drugs in NO. Make it a pilot program for a limited time. It can't make things worse.

BTW, you hit a nerve with the infrastructure thing. I think NO has problems that exist for everyone, regardless of race. Yes, whites probably get more breaks, but welcome to Planet Earth.

mola said...

Adding to the numbers...
88% of African American kids in New Orleans failed the LEAP test this year.
100% of public housing residents (displaced public housing residents) are Black, without exception.

Question is, what are we gonna do?