The City of New Orleans may very well be on its way to showing that education is the key to lowering crime rates. The Times Picayune just ran a great article featuring local kids who’ve benefited from the one-on-one instruction at NOPLAY – “New Orleans Providing Literacy to All Youth” — an educational program dedicated to helping teens and adults earn their GED.
According to the article, around 20% of NOPLAY’s GED students are ordered there by a judge.
As I’ve written earlier, municipalities are responding to economic realities and scientific research by updating the way their criminal justice systems do business. How Louisiana deals with juvenile criminal activity has changed in the past decade, and with big impact on numbers of incarcerated youth and with big savings to the state.
In 2003 the Louisiana legislature passed Act 1225, otherwise known as The Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2003. This bill aimed to reform Louisiana’s juvenile justice system by moving the focus away from incarceration and more toward treatment, rehabilitation, and education.
Since then, the number of incarcerated youths in Louisiana has dropped from the 1997 high of 1,900 to 566 in 2006. And at an average cost of $185.75 per prisoner per day, this is an impressive savings.
Programs like NOPLAY and its parent program, the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP), have an important role in our society. There is a strong correlation between low levels of education and crime, and so we need programs like these to reach disenfranchised young people, to connect them with existing social services and community resources.
In a city where one in four adults lacks a high school diploma, nonprofit programs like these are a no brainer, and are worthy of our investment.