Erin Fleming & Taylor Addison's Letter to the Editor on the Criminal Justice Session
The 2018 Leadership Tangipahoa class met on Tuesday, January 16th to explore the criminal justice in Tangipahoa parish. The day started out at the Tangi Tourism office with presentation from Juvenile Court Judge, Blair Edwards. Tangipahoa Parish is extremely fortunate to have Judge Edwards serving for the 2st Judicial District. She handles all cases involving juveniles for Livingston, Tangipahoa and St. Helena parish with such passion and devotion to the wellbeing of the child. She explained how adverse childhood experiences have a lasting impact on the child. Judge Edwards also expressed her feelings for truancy court which is voluntary in Tangipahoa Parish but is very much needed according to Judge Edwards. Under Judge Edwards, the juvenile court is conducting a pilot program for Trust Based Relational Intervention. She encouraged the class to get involved in CASA.
The next stop was at the Tangipahoa Sheriff's Office Substation on Club Deluxe Rd. There the class heard from Sheriff Daniel Edwards and the leadership team of law enforcement officers. Most individuals are familiar with the patrol division run by Captain Kim Moore. There were 56,000 calls for service last year. The patrol division has 50 patrol deputies, four K-9 handlers, and 3 motorcycles that work in shifts of 12. The class also heard from Captain Kenny Corkern who leads the detective division as well as Captain Jim Richardson who leads the reserve division - a team of commissioned deputies whom are unpaid volunteers. There are 1,300 cases per year in the juvenile division run by Captain Ken Harrell.
Property tax enforcement is also a function of the sheriff's office. Properties with unpaid taxes are sold at sheriffs auction each year in April. Lieutenant Alex Richardson spoke on the neighborhood watch program supported by the criminal investigation division. Community members can get neighborhood watch signs by contacting the sheriff's office at 985-507-2188.
The parish jail is also run by the sheriff's office. The jail houses 550 inmates. Half of the inmates in the parish jail are parish inmates. The other half are made up of 10% federal inmates and 40% department of corrections inmates. By law, the parish government pays the sheriff's office $3.50per day for the care of the inmates. Space for the federal inmates is rented to the federal Department of Justice at a rate of $45 per day. The Louisiana Department of Corrections pays the sheriff's office $22.50 per day for the space used for department of Corrections inmates. Detective Jacob Schwebel who runs the narcotics division informed the class that one of the biggest threats to our community currently is the presence of opioids. There were 50 deaths in Tangipahoa last year alone due to heroin overdose. The sheriff's office presentation concluded with a demonstration by K-9 officer, Tommy Ferrand and K-9 partner Delilah.
The next stop for the class was the visit to the Florida ParishesJuvenile Detention Center. Executive Director, Joey Dominic, gave a short presentation about the history of the center and the current philosophy for success. The center was built in 1992 and serves a five parish region. The average stay of most inmates is 30 days but can be as long as 2 years. There were 700 children imprisoned at the center last year. The center can hold up to 130 inmates at a time. At its inception, the center followed an institutional model similar to that of the jail but they transitioned to a caregiver model in recent years to prevent recidivism. The center follows the Positive Behavior System using performance based standards where inmates can earn privileges for good behavior. The center received award recognition for the success of its implementation of the PBS program. The use of the cognitive model preserves dignity and gives inmates the opportunity to practice making good choices before being released back to the public. Of the 500 juvenile detention centers in this country, only half do business this way. Director of Operations, Russell Sanders and Director of Facilities, Tyler Henshaw,lead the class on a tour of the facility which includes classrooms for daily instruction, a garden where inmates earn points for services, medical and dental facilities, weight rooms, multipurpose rooms and outdoor space. They currently have a need for a barber who would be willing to assist in grooming inmates.
District Attorney, Scott Perilloux, joined the class at the Juvenile Detention Center to discuss his role and the court's role in the community. As district attorney, the D.A. has jurisdiction over any felony violation of state law. He oversees a team of 16 assistant district attorneys. They are assigned over 5,000 total cases per year. 80% of those cases are accepted for prosecution. The district attorney's office also has a pre-trial intervention program for first offenders. Drugs are the main reason for 7 out of 10 cases. D.A. Perrilloux also pointed out theopioid problem sweeping the nation is very real in our area. The 21st judicial district includes 9 judges - 2 family court judges, 1 juvenile court and 6 others. A special thanks to D.A. Perrilloux for providing delicious jambalaya lunch for the class from Cooper's Cafe in Robert.
The day concluded with a presentation by Jody Rohner, Executive Director of Crime Stoppers of Tangipahoa. Crime Stoppers of Tangipahoa is a nonprofit 501c3 organization formed in 1983 by business leaders and concerned citizens in our parish. Anyone with knowledge of a crime can call one the Crime Stoppers hotlines at 1-800-554-JAIL or for juveniles 1-877-668-2421 or use one of the other anonymous ways to relay clues or information listed below. The hotlines are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Crime Stoppers uses a PIN system to ensure tipster have complete anonymity. If the tip results in an arrest, the tipster is eligible for a reward. The amount of the reward is determined by the seriousness of the crime. The rewards are paid anonymously by using your assigned PIN. There are 6 ways to TIP Crime Stoppers anonymously: call the 1-800-554-JAIL hotline, call the juvenile hotline 1-877-668-2421, text "274637" on your smart phone or "CRIMES" on your cell phone just begin your message with "TANGITIP", download the free mobile "Tip Submit" App, click the "Leave a Tip" tab on the Crime Stoppers of Tangipahoa Facebook page, or submit your tip online at www.tangicrimestoppers.com. Crime Stoppers also provides neighborhood watch training to individuals and neighborhoods by request.
At the conclusion of the day, it was evident that all of the individuals engaged in criminal justice here in Tangipahoa are passionate about what they do. There is a tremendous overarching theme to the day that we can prevent crimes with awareness and community activism. A special thanks to all of those selflessly serving the community daily by providing us with the safety that most people take for granted.
Erin Fleming is the Assistant Director of Communications at Southeastern Louisiana University where shehas served as the supervisor for the Enrollment Services call center, system admin for the prospect database, coordinator for student communication campaigns and supervisor of customer service for the areas of admissions, financial aid and enrollment services for more than 15 years. Erin has a bachelor's degree in Mass Communications from Southeastern as well as a Master's Degree in Organizational Communication from Southeastern. She is passionate about her community and higher education in general and is pleased to be a part of the Leadership Class of 2018.
Taylor Addison is the Safety Coordinator for the department of Community Development with Tangipahoa Parish Government. She has worked for Tangipahoa Parish Government for 3 years where she coordinates and manages 3 Louisiana Highway Safety Grants, two of which support the "No Refusal" Initiative to reduce impaired driving fatalities, and one that supports reducing fatalities among young drivers due to distractions, speeding, and impairment. She is active in the community and local high schools to give awareness of the dangers of unhealthy driving habits. She loves working with the parish and is very happy that the parish offers such a great program like Leadership Tangipahoa to be a part of.