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Controversial Bill Passes: Louisiana House Approves Disclosure of Juvenile Records in Majority-Black

The BR Weekly Press Staff In a significant development, the Louisiana House of Representatives has approved House Bill 321, legislation that seeks to make juvenile court records accessible to the public in three predominantly Black parishes. The bill, which received a 63-36 vote in favor, applies to minors as young as 13 in Caddo, Orleans, and East Baton Rouge parishes. The move has ignited a heated debate, with proponents emphasizing public safety and transparency. At the same time, critics argue that it perpetuates racial bias by subjecting Black children to scrutiny normally reserved for the adult criminal justice system.

State Representative Debbie Villio, a Republican from Kenner and the bill's sponsor asserts that it aims to address high crime rates in these areas and promote transparency. However, opponents, including State Representative Edmond Jordan, a Democrat from Baton Rouge, argue that the bill's intent is racially motivated and express concern about the potential negative consequences for Black children. Rep. Jordan emphasizes that Baton Rouge, Shreveport, and New Orleans residents should be offended by the proposed legislation. Under the bill, the three parishes will be required to develop publicly accessible electronic databases connected to the attorney general's office website that contain detailed records of juvenile court proceedings. Citing the alarming surge in gun violence over recent years in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport, Rep. Villio justified focusing on these specific areas.

Despite the bill's successful passage in the House, several lawmakers attempted to soften its impact but were unsuccessful. Representative Barry Ivey, a Republican from Central, criticized the legislation as "reckless and irresponsible." The bill will now proceed to the state Senate, where its fate will depend on the allocation of funds for its implementation.

Notably, even Republican Representative John Stefanski of Crowley, who is running for attorney general, expressed reservations about disclosing juvenile records. He acknowledged that while the accused minors may be involved in serious crimes, they are still only facing accusations and should be treated accordingly.

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