Cheri Vining's Letter to the Editor on Criminal Justice Session
I have the privilege of being a proud member of the 2009 – 2010 class of Leadership Tangipahoa. We began our monthly sessions in August 2009 and are quickly coming to the end of our year with only two more sessions remaining before our graduation in June. This month’s session was about Criminal Justice.
We began our day at the Florida Parishes Juvenile Detention Center. We were greeted by Tom Jarlosc, Executive Director, Russell Sanders, Director of Operations, David Finley, Training Coordinator, and Joseph Dominick, Director of Female Services/Facility Manager. We were provided coffee, soft drinks, and cookies as we were given a brief history of the Center, a summary of issues the Center staff dealt with before the behavior model was changed, statistics on the Center’s capacity, and procedures for working with and supervising the children. I was impressed at the fact that it is the only center in Louisiana that operates under a cognitive behavior model. The staff works to preserve the dignity of the children they serve by building relationships, providing vocational training, social skills, and teaching independent living skills while trying to not increase criminal thinking. Medical, dental, and educational needs of the children are met daily as well as providing counseling and tele-psychiatry as needed. The walls of the Center have beautiful murals painted by the children, and they also tend a garden behind the Center, harvest the food, and donate this food to the local food pantry.
Marshal Gordon Anderson of the 7th Ward also joined us on the tour. After the tour, he gave us an insight to his duties as Marshal and the area he serves. He has served as Marshal for the past 35 years, following in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps.
Our next speaker was Jody Powell, Executive Director of Crime Stoppers of Tangipahoa. She explained how the program works, where the reward money comes from, and the most common crimes in Tangipahoa Parish. Incorporated in 1983 as Hammond Crime Stoppers, it became Tangipahoa Crime Stoppers in 2007. With more public awareness of the program, 253 arrests were made in 2009 from 604 tips received.
Next we headed north to Amite where we were welcomed by Sheriff Daniel Edwards and Dawn Panepinto, Public Information Officer with the Sheriff’s Office, for a delicious lunch at La Caretta’s Restaurant sponsored by the Tangipahoa Sheriff’s Office.
After lunch, many of us were taken out of our comfort zones, as we toured the Parish Prison. We were greeted by Sheriff Daniel Edwards, with Assistant Warden, Captain Stuart Murphy, and Warden Dennis Wheat taking us through the facility. It was alarming to find that the jail generally operates at capacity - 526 inmates, and in order for new prisoners to be admitted, some jailed criminals are set free.
Internet safety issues were next on our agenda. Soft drinks were provided as Toby Aguillard, Director, Internet Crimes Against Children Division, gave a presentation discussing how and why children are vulnerable, the dangers children face from child predators, child pornography, and the lengths that predators go to attract children through the internet, brought awareness to the group as well as a sickening feeling regarding people who commit these crimes.
To end the day, we were surprised with a brief demonstration from the K-9 division of the Sheriff’s office. Deputy Mike Dean and Deputy Albert Sharp and their highly trained partners, Emir and Titan, are to be commended for their expertise and the precision skills they utilize to catch criminals and ‘sniff out’ narcotics. Randy Moore, a member of our class, volunteered to play the criminal to be attacked. Emir kept the bite on him, no matter what, until Deputy Dean called him off. Excellent teamwork.
On behalf of the Leadership class, I would like to thank everyone for taking time out of their schedules to meet with us and for making this session one of the most ‘eye opening’ sessions to date. We appreciate the service you all do for our community and its citizens.
Special thanks to John Dardis, Program Facilitator, Emily McKneely, Chairman, and Stacey Neal, Public Relations Chair for their guidance and assistance to us throughout this year.
I would like to thank my sponsor, the Tangipahoa Mosquito Abatement District and its Board of Commissioners, for their support and for supporting the Leadership Tangipahoa program. This program has been a most rewarding, educational, and unique experience. I highly recommend it to anyone wishing to expand their knowledge of the Parish, learn how agencies and businesses work together, and how they can become more involved in the community.
By: Cheri Vining