Amber Gardner's Letter to the Editor on Criminal Justice Session
Having been a lifelong resident of this unique parish, I was truly honored to be chosen as a participant of the 2009-2010 class of Leadership Tangipahoa. We meet each month to discuss topics and issues related to Tangipahoa Parish. During the month of March, we explored pieces of the criminal justice system.
Our morning began with a visit to the Florida Parishes Juvenile Detention Center. Mr. Tom Jarlock, Executive Director of the center greeted our group and explained the operations of the facility. The juvenile center is a non-profit agency that operates on a 3-millage tax. Currently, the center is capable of housing 105 youth ages ten through seventeen, but expansion for 28 additional beds will soon begin. Rather than utilizing an institutional method, the center is the only juvenile facility in Louisiana that applies the cognitive behavioral approach, which teaches the youth contained within the facility new behaviors as well as holding them accountable for their own actions.
Our Leadership Tangipahoa group divided into two sections, and Mr. David Finley, Training Officer for the juvenile center led my group on a tour of the impressive facility. Contained within the complex are physical, mental, and dental areas which are serviced by appropriate, highly qualified medical staff. Certified teachers provide engaging classroom lessons in the educational areas, and a multitude of books are available for reading so that the youth are left with little to no idle time on their hands. A points program is also in place that rewards the youth for positive actions and behaviors.
It was clearly evident that under the direction of Mr. Jarlock and his dedicated staff, the Florida Parishes Juvenile Detention Center is an encouraging and positive intervention for the youth who are housed within the complex.
After touring the facility, Mr. Gordon Anderson, 7th Ward Marshal, was introduced to our group. Mr. Anderson has dedicated an impressive thirty-five years to serving the citizens of this community. In addition to explaining the mission and duties of the Marshal’s Office, Mr. Anderson briefed us on crime in Tangipahoa Parish.
After meeting with Mr. Anderson, we were then greeted by Mrs. Jody Powell, Executive Director of Crime Stoppers. Crime Stoppers is a non-profit organization whose vision is to have a crime-free Tangipahoa. Since fear is the biggest reason why people do not come forward when they have witnessed a crime, a caller identification system is not utilized. Instead, pin numbers are issued to callers to protect identities. Cash rewards are also issued for detailed tips that lead to arrests to further encourage witnesses to report crimes. In order to preserve the safety and order of this great parish, if you have knowledge of a crime, please call the 1-800-554-5245 (JAIL) Crime Stoppers Hotline with any detail or information.
Our next stop was La Carreta in Amite where we were joined by Sheriff Daniel Edwards and Mrs. Dawn Panepinto, Public Information Officer for the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Department. Sheriff Edwards addressed us briefly and later joined us at the jail. On behalf of the Leadership Tangipahoa class, I would like to thank Sheriff Edwards for treating us to lunch.
An enlightening tour of the Tangipahoa Parish Jail was next on our itinerary. We were greeted by Sheriff Edwards, Captain Stuart Murphy, Administrator of the Jail, Captain Dennis Wheat, Warden, and Mrs. Panepinto. During the tour of the jail, we learned that the facility, originally built in the 1980’s, is able to house 526 male inmates and 24 female inmates. With over seven thousand bookings per year for varying offenses, it is fairly easy to see why additional space may be needed to house inmates.
After touring the jail, we were then introduced to Mr. Toby Aguillard, Director of the Internet Crimes Against Children Division. Recognizing the increasing problem of Internet predators and child pornography, Sheriff Daniel Edwards took the initiative to institute the ICAC in March of 2007. According to Mr. Aguillard, since we now live in a digital age, it's imperative for parents and guardians to be aware of Internet safety. To find valuable Internet safety information, please visit www.ipatoday.com (Internet Protection Agency).
Our group was then led outside where we met Deputy Albert Sharp and Deputy Mike Dean, Jr. They introduced us to their two beautiful and well trained patrol dogs from the TPSO K-9 Division, Titan and Meir. After being briefed on the training, purpose, and importance of using such animals during various searches, Leadership Tangipahoa Classmate, Randy Moore, graciously volunteered his services for a bite sleeve demonstration.
The criminal justice system in Tangipahoa Parish encompasses so much more than what we could possibly discover in one day. As citizens of this community, it is our duty to support those who dedicate their time and services to protect the people of Tangipahoa.
I would like to thank the Tangipahoa Parish School Board and Mr.Kolwe, Superintendent of Tangipahoa Parish Schools, for supporting me in my quest to seek additional information as to the needs and opportunities within this unique and diverse parish. Never would I have imagined the wealth of new knowledge I would acquire during each monthly session of Leadership Tangipahoa.
I would encourage anyone who is curious about Leadership Tangipahoa to visit the website at www.leadershiptangi.org. Participation in this community leadership program is the most worthwhile opportunity you will ever experience that will allow you to gain first-hand knowledge of how you can generate positive changes within your community.
By: Amber Gardner