Even before the 2005 Katrina disaster, New Orleans struggled with inadequacies in its criminal justice system. After the storm public safety became a higher-than-ever priority, and system reform became crucial to the city's recovery.
Citizens for 1 New Orleans responded by launching a year of intensive research into systemic problems and forming the Criminal Justice Reform Committee. The group enlisted broad based support to implement recommendations that included the:
• Creation of a volunteer force to monitor the effectiveness and efficiency of Orleans Parish Criminal Court; with the support of Common Good and Business Council of New Orleans. Court Watch NOLA was created.
• Formation of a broad based coalition of business and civic leaders to reduce violent crime in our city, with a focus on the career criminal. The New Orleans Crime Coalition was established.
• Adoption of an integrated information and technology system, OPISIS, under the coordination of New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation.
The Criminal Justice Reform Committee has focused its efforts on several fundamental initiatives: juvenile justice reform; domestic violence prevention; criminal justice and law enforcement budget review; and legislative advocacy.
Juvenile justice reform
Recognizing the connection between juvenile delinquency and adult criminal behavior, the committee has advocated for alternatives to juvenile detention and in doing so helped reduce an overreliance on detention. Sustained efforts through Orleans Parish Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative have worked toward improving conditions of confinement, developing new assessment tools to identify at-risk youth and using alternatives to confinement. Community Stakeholders rely on evidence based decision making to develop recommendations considered by Orleans Parish Juvenile Court for adoption and implementation.
Domestic violence and victim protection
Reducing incidents of violence and their rippling impact on families and the community is an important goal of the Criminal Justice Reform Committee, which advocates for change. Joining forces with civic groups, city leaders, judges, and Tulane University the group has worked to raise awareness of domestic violence issues, improve law enforcement's handling of such cases and strengthen legislation to better support victims.
Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement Budgets
Members of the Criminal Justice Committee keep a close eye on budgets of the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Department, New Orleans Police Department, Juvenile Court, Criminal Court, Municipal Court, District Attorney and Office of Indigent Defense by monitoring these agencies' financial presentations to the City Council, while advocating for effective programs.