Juvenile Justice shakeup

Juvenile Justice shakeup

The head of Louisiana’s beleaguered Office of Juvenile Justice resigned on Friday, leaving an agency that has repeatedly failed to carry out its most basic functions. The Advocate’s James Finn reports that William “Bill” Sommers’ resignation last Wednesday comes after repeated escapes, riots, capacity constraints and accusations of rape inside Louisiana’s youth lockups. 

OJJ’s struggles mounted in July with a string of escapes and violent outbursts at the Bridge City Center for Youth, a Jefferson Parish secure-care facility that had already seen escapes earlier in the year. The agency announced the plan to house some youth at the Angola facility in the days after the summer breakouts. More recently, OJJ has faced scrutiny for a privately run youth jail in Red River Parish that houses most incarcerated girls in the state and which the agency contracts with. A report in the New York Times documenting years of rape by guards and suicide attempts among youth there prompted Edwards to call earlier this month for a probe by the Louisiana Office of the Inspector General.

The final straw for Sommers may have been a letter sent last week where the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice warned state officials that the children being housed at Angola should be removed immediately.  The Louisiana Illuminator’s Julie O’Donoghue reports on the disconnect between federal and state officials on housing children at a maximum-security adult prison. 

“We recommend that children be immediately removed from Angola,” Liz Ryan, administrator of the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, said this week. The governor has said the Angola site is needed to house incarcerated youth with the most severe behavioral problems. 

The shrinking future of college
The economic woes of the Great Recession prompted many states to drastically cut their investments in public colleges and universities. But the last decade’s economic crisis also had a more pernicious effect that will harm higher education’s bottom line: a declining birth rate. Naturally, there’s a two-decade delay in the effect of birth rates on college admissions, but as Vox’s Kevin Carey explains, that time has come.  

In four years, the number of students graduating from high schools across the country will begin a sudden and precipitous decline, due to a rolling demographic aftershock of the Great Recession. Traumatized by uncertainty and unemployment, people decided to stop having kids during that period. But even as we climbed out of the recession, the birth rate kept dropping, and we are now starting to see the consequences on campuses everywhere. Classes will shrink, year after year, for most of the next two decades. People in the higher education industry call it “the enrollment cliff.”

Carey examines the class and geographical disparities that will result from the declining demand for college: 

By immunizing themselves from the effects of enrollment decline, elites will shove the problem down the ladder of institutional status and make things worse for everyone else. The future looks very different in some parts of the country than in others, and will also vary among national four-year universities, regional universities like (Shippensburg State University), and community colleges. Grawe projects that, despite the overall demographic decline, demand for national four-year universities on the West Coast will increase by more than 7.5 percent between now and the mid-2030s. But in states like New York, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Louisiana, it will decline by 15 percent or more.

The infrastructure law turns 1 
It has been a full year since President Joe Biden signed a $1.2 trillion bipartisan bill aimed at tackling the nation’s deteriorating infrastructure needs. Louisiana is already seeing the benefits of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act as it uses funding to close a massive broadband gap, chip away at a backlog of roads and bridge projects and plug orphaned wells in rural areas. The Advocate’s Mark Ballard breaks down everything the Pelican State is set to receive:

About $4 billion in funding has been announced and is headed to 120 specific projects in Louisiana. That includes more than $3.1 billion for transportation to invest in roads, bridges, public transit, ports and airports, and over $101 million for clean water. More than 341,000 households across the state already are receiving affordable internet with money from the act. The state has 1,634 bridges and over 3,411 miles of highway rated in poor condition. Based on formula funding alone, Louisiana is expected to receive about $5.9 billion over five years in federal funding for highways and bridges.

Millions in overpayments to Medicare Advantage plans
The federal government has issued massive overpayments to a fast-growing alternative to traditional Medicare plans, according to newly released audits. The plans in question are part of Medicare Advantage, a highly lucrative market for insurers that now enroll nearly half of all Medicare beneficiaries. NPR’s Fred Schulte and Holly K. Hacker explain how some companies were receiving taxpayer dollars by claiming patients were sicker than they actually were:

Ted Doolittle, a former deputy director of CMS’ Center for Program Integrity, which oversees Medicare’s efforts to fight fraud and billing abuse, said the agency has failed to hold Medicare Advantage plans accountable. “I think CMS fell down on the job on this,” said Doolittle, now the health care advocate for the state of Connecticut. Doolittle said CMS appears to be “carrying water” for the insurance industry, which is “making money hand over fist” off Medicare Advantage plans. “From the outside, it seems pretty smelly,” he said.

We’re hiring: The Louisiana Budget Project is seeking a Policy Analyst to work on state and federal policy issues that affect low-income Louisianans, with a focus on budget and tax issues. Click here to learn more and apply.

Programming note: The Daily Dime is taking a holiday break. We will be back on Monday. The LBP staff wishes a happy Thanksgiving to all our subscribers! 

Number of the Day
$4.97 – Increase in price for a 16-lb turkey, compared to the same time last year. (Source: American Farm Bureau Federation)