Associated Press Writer
July 14, 2005
Gov. Kathleen Blanco toured one of Louisiana's four youth prisons on Thursday, chatting with inmates and guards as she continues her push to reform the state's much-criticized juvenile justice system.
Blanco met with several teenage prisoners at the Jefferson Parish lockup, quizzing them about their daily routines inside the dorm room they call home, which has wooden bunk beds, a television and sofas.
The Bridge City facility is the first of the state's juvenile prisons where the Office of Youth Development has introduced changes aimed at treating the male teens less like adult convicts, concentrating on rehabilitation rather than punishment.
Blanco said the changes marked a "magic moment" in the reform efforts. "It's too costly in terms of human capital" to continue putting young convicts behind bars without more rehabilitation, because those children often grow up to be adult criminals, Blanco said.
"They only learn how to be better criminals, instead of better people," Blanco said in a speech inside the prison gymnasium.