SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A proposed bill in the Louisiana Legislature, House Bill 321 would create what lawmakers are calling the “Truth and Transparency” pilot program in East Baton Rouge, Orleans, and Caddo Parishes. Many believe the bill targets Black youth because the law targets the state’s three majority Black metro areas.
“The problem with this bill is they’re targeting Shreveport,” James Stewart, Caddo Parish District Attorney said. “The claim is that Shreveport is in the top three for violent crimes, that’s not true. Per capita, Shreveport is not in the top three for violent cases.”
The program would make violent criminal court records available, including the records of juveniles as young as thirteen.
“The public has a right to know,” State Rep. Debbie Villio said. “This is about public safety. In an effort to consider those concerns relative to the juvenile records, I did reduce the list of crimes subject to release.”
Villio represents a portion of Jefferson Parish, which is not included in the representative’s pilot program but has seen its fair share of crime.
Some members of the legislature believe the names of teenagers should be limited to the public.
“The biggest objection I had when it was in committee is we’re dealing with juveniles in a pilot program,” State Rep. Joseph Marino said. “We’re releasing the names of juveniles basically to the public. And we don’t release the names of juveniles in this way across the state.”
An amendment was offered.
“So what my amendment does is changes the name of the juvenile, except any juvenile accused of a delinquent act or a judicative of a delinquent act of any minor child who is a party shall be identified by initials, rather than by the name of the juvenile,” Marino said.
Marino says the victims of these crimes would have access to the full names of the perpetrator from the district attorney and the prosecutor.
“In the Louisiana Constitution it says you’re innocent until proven guilty,” State Rep. John Stefanski said. “Even though these kids are committing extremely bad crimes, and are being accused of very bad crimes, they’re still just accused. They haven’t been convicted yet.”
Louisiana State Representative, Alan Seabaugh, sent a statement about why he chose to vote in favor of the bill. He said Louisiana has a crime problem, and we need to use every tool we have to streamline the administration of justice.