Caddo Parish District Attorney James E. Stewart Sr. and the heads or representatives of top area law enforcement agencies offered tough talk, parental advice and glimmers of hope to more than two dozen juvenile offenders Thursday night, November 9, 2017, at Galilee Baptist Church in Shreveport.
The youths, who officials say are responsible for more than 200 crimes, accompanied by guardians or parents, heard DA Stewart, Shreveport Police Chief Alan Crump and representatives of the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s office, Caddo Juvenile Court and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Shreveport lay out the choices they face.
“I want you to know we have come to the point where we have to say ‘enough is enough,'” DA Stewart said. “People in our community are dying. Guns. Violence. Burglaries. All kinds of crimes are going on. There are new rules in place. We are now targeting crimes, we are coming after those who will commit these crimes. Long jail sentences are coming for those who will not seek to choose a better path. We practice tough love.”
Jay Long, chief deputy with the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s office, said he looks into the crowd of youths and sees the faces of people he knew back in 1990 and envisions their futures, of which they have control.
“You have to do your part,” he cautioned them.
“There are consequences for the choices that you make,” said Cytherea Jernigan, criminal chief with the U.S. Attorney’s office Shreveport Division. “Those choices that you make, even as a youthful offender, can come back to bite you.”
SPD Chief Alan Crump noted he grew up the youngest of seven children of a mother who had a fifth-grade education, hardly a choice background.
“I stand before you as an example there is hope,” he said. “We’re not just blowing smoke. We are here to help you.”
Perhaps the speaker who most reached into the hearts of the youths was Curtis Davis, who in his adolescent years hung with gangs, saw his mother imprisoned when he was 12 and lost her to murder just two years later. In 1990, he said, he was sentenced to life in prison for second-degree murder. He spent almost 26 years behind bars before he was cleared for a wrongful conviction.
“Please, if you have any kind of sense,” Davis implored the young faces before him. “Nobody wants to live the nasty life. We all want a house, some kids, a car, a job. … Choose to be successful.”
Clay Walker of Caddo Juvenile Court noted the array of social service agencies, fraternities and resources available to help youth today, resources that weren’t available a decade or two ago.
“What we’re trying to do is help,” he said. “We don’t want you getting out of adult prison at 42.”
DA Stewart summed it up.
“We love you,” he said. “You hold your future in your hands. The future is yours.”