Broken promises on juvenile justice

Broken promises on juvenile justice

In 2004, state leaders promised a more therapeutic approach to Louisiana’s antiquated and brutal juvenile justice system. But the effort failed because of broken promises from elected officials, resulting in the current crisis in Louisiana’s youth prison system. Former juvenile justice chief Mary Livers, writing in The Advocate, explains how years of scant funding and political failures are hurting children. 

It appears the state has abandoned its former commitment for juvenile justice reform. The evidence is clear in what has been offered as solutions: restore the old death row building at Angola and turn it into a place to hold juveniles (where they can be locked up); refurbish the old Jetson facility (where youth can be locked up); and keep supporting the St. Martinville facility which was created solely for isolating youth in cells (lock up). And most shockingly, the last suggestion that was put forth is that we need to ask district attorneys to send more juveniles to adult court. Really? The purpose of a juvenile justice system is to make every effort to keep youth out of the adult system.

Undervaluing Black peoples’ homes
Like many Americans last year, Dr. Nathan Connolly and his wife, Dr. Shani Mott, wanted to take advantage of record-low interest rates to refinance their mortgage. After making $40,000 in renovations, they were certain their home was worth more than the $450,000 they paid in 2017. But, an appraisal of their home valued the property at just $22,000 more than what Connolly and Mott, who are both Black, had originally paid. Connolly, a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University and an expert on redlining and the legacy of white supremacy in American cities, suspected housing discrimination, and decided to conduct a “whitewashing experiment” to see how it would impact a new loan application. The New York Times’ Debra Kamin has the story

They cleared their bookshelves of works by Black authors. They asked white friends to share family photos and placed those in picture frames around the house; on their walls, they hung art bought at Ikea that showed white people. “We had to have a conversation with our kids about why we’re pulling down all their drawings,” Dr. Connolly said. “It’s very humiliating to strip yourself of your own home.” On the day of the second appraisal, they left their home and had the white colleague answer the door. The second appraiser provided the $750,000 estimate. The homes pulled by the second appraiser were of significantly higher value than those selected by Mr. Lanham, selling from $749,000 to  $785,000. And while Lanham docked $50,000, or 10 percent, from the comparable homes that were not on a busy road, the second appraiser deducted $15,000, or 2 percent. The complaint says that the 2 percent adjustment is consistent with industry standards.

Ninety-seven percent of home appraisers are white, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Sales tax holidays are bad economic policy 
States across the country are expanding sales tax holidays – lowering or eliminating state sales tax for a specific period of time – as inflation drives up the prices of everyday goods. While these holidays are politically popular, they don’t promote economic growth, nor do they raise consumer spending. All they do is shift the timing of some purchases, while draining revenue that supports important services like education and police protection that communities need. The Wall Street Journal’s Joseph De Avila and Lauryn Azu explain the consensus among conservative and progressive-leaning economists that sales holidays are bad economic policy. 

“The low-income taxpayer doesn’t have the luxury to time their purchases to shop during the holiday,” Ms. [Lucy] Dadayan [senior research associate at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center] said. “It will be much more useful to provide direct aid to low-income taxpayers rather than to provide holidays.” Janelle Fritts, policy analyst with the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation, said tax holidays aren’t well targeted to aid people who need the most help. “People with higher incomes also benefit, just as much, if not more, because they’re able to spend more during those tax holiday,” Ms. Fritts said. 

Louisiana currently has three separate sales tax holidays for back to school supplies, disaster supplies, and guns, ammo and other hunting supplies. 

Carbon capture is a waste of time and money 
Ascension Parish is under consideration for an ammonia production facility that will use carbon-capture technology. Carbon capture and storage (CCS), a process where industries that emit carbon dioxide capture their emissions, pump those emissions into pressurized tanks or pipelines to liquefy them, and then store that liquid carbon dioxide underground, has become trendy among policymakers as a solution for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate change. In fact, it’s a key part of Louisiana’s climate action plan and the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act. But the founders of the first privately funded company to use CCS in the United States, in a guest column for The New York Times, explain why every dollar used on this technology is a waste of money: 

But now it’s clear that we were wrong, and that every dollar invested in renewable energy — instead of C.C.S. power — will eliminate far more carbon emissions. … Solving climate change requires resources; misappropriating these resources makes solving the problem harder. We have no time to waste. We need to stop subsidizing oil extraction and carbon dioxide production in the name of fighting climate change and stop burning billions in taxpayer money on white elephant projects. Clean power from carbon capture and sequestration died with the success of renewable energy; it’s time to bury this technology deep underground.

Footnote: CF Industries is applying for a 10-year property tax break worth nearly $250 million. 

Number of the Day
79.62% – Percentage of all Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) benefits that were administered in 2021 that went to Louisiana. D-SNAP provides grocery assistance for families who don’t qualify for SNAP but have few resources available after a disaster (Source: FY23 USDA Budget Allocation)