From confinement to community
This thesis examines the role of community responses to youth offending in Barbados and New Orleans, Louisiana in shaping both legislative reform and community-based programming. Both locales currently contend with a history of punitive juvenile justice systems which have led to the widespread criminalization, imprisonment, and stigmatization of vulnerable populations: namely, socioeconomically-deprived Afro-descended youth. In light of this punitive tradition, perpetuated in both the public consciousness and legal statutes, community-based initiatives have the potential, by engaging with at-risk and system-involved youth, to change the societal evaluation of these youth as incorrigible delinquents to one of sympathetic community members victimized by need. Political and legal reforms likewise require shifting perceptions by relevant actors to ensure their successful implementation. Chapter 1 tracks the history of the juvenile justice system in New Orleans in the 20th century, with specific attention paid to the various shifts in normative principles undergirding the system during this period. Chapter 2 introduces the developmental justice model. Chapter 3 observes the current juvenile justice system in New Orleans and some of the community interventions currently interacting with at-risk youth. Chapter 4 transitions to Barbados, outlining the juvenile justice system in that country, some examples of developmentally-based approaches, and the incipient Child Justice Bill, which hews closely to the developmental justice model. Chapter 5 concludes, comparing the challenges faced by progressive juvenile justice stakeholders in redefining perceptions of youth offenders in both places while noting the idiosyncrasies specific to each. I conclude supportive community engagement with system-involved youth is transformative — not just for the youth but also for their wider society. Whether through direct contact or the framing around developmental programs, community engagement stands to alter the social and political conception of at-risk children. This research thus sheds light on a means by which widespread normative evaluations of these youth are both a product of and produce changes in the juvenile justice system.