Leadership St. Tammany Alumni hosts conference on parish’s high incarceration

Local experts will discuss the high rates of incarceration and recidivism in our parish and state, their contributing factors, and potential solutions at an interactive conference for alumni of the St. Tammany Leadership (West) Program from 8 a.m. to 11:30 AM Oct. 7 at the Pontchartrain Yacht Club in old Mandeville.

The cost of the session is $25 for Leadership St. Tammany Alumni Foundation members and $35 for guests, if they register in advance, or an additional $10 for walk-ins. A full breakfast is included from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. Register at www.leadershipsttammany.org before October 6.

St Tammany Parish is reported to have more people behind bars per capita than anywhere in the world (954 per 100,000 population). According to some figures, the rate of incarceration in St. Tammany is higher than that of Louisiana, which has the highest rate of all the states (868 per 100,000 residents) and that of the United States, which at 743 per 100,000 residents, far exceeds that of any other industrialized nation.

Some 92 percent of Louisiana inmates eventually leave prison, and 47 percent of those released after five years return for having committed the same offenses. What’s more, non-violent crimes account for roughly 50 percent of those behind bars in Louisiana.

What lies behind these numbers? Is our criminal justice system working—i.e., worth the cost, changing behavior, and making us safer—and are there more effective alternatives in dealing with crime? These are among the key questions our experts will address.

With the first contested race for St. Tammany Parish District Attorney in 18 years, the issues of incarceration and recidivism are timely and important. Are the policies that lead to such high incarceration rates what we really want and need? It is by no means a settled question, but one that participants will be much better informed about, after attending the “Leadership Revisited” conference.

The experts who will address the different facets of our topic include:

  • Dr. Peter Scharf, noted criminologist at LSU, and, formerly, Tulane University;
  • Chief Tim Lentz, Covington Police Dept. and former Chief Deputy Sheriff, St Tammany Parish;
  • Judge Peter Garcia, Louisiana’s 22nd Judicial District and its Behavioral Health Court
  • Warden Burl Cain, Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola)
  • Dr. Charles Preston, St Tammany Parish Coroner
  • John Lindner, Chief Public Defender, Louisiana’s 22nd Judicial District
  • David Cressy, State Coordinator, Louisiana Re-entry Advisory Council, and former City Attorney, City of Mandeville
  • Nick Richard, Executive Director, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)—St Tammany Parish.
  • Ameer Baraka, Actor, former convicted drug dealer, and mentor to at-risk and imprisoned youth.

Although “Leadership Revisited” is an event for program graduates and their guests, it is open to the public, available seating permitting. 

The Leadership St Tammany Alumni Foundation is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to keeping graduates of the Leadership St Tammany (West) program informed of current issues and inspiring them to remain involved with each other in addressing the needs of our growing community.

The leadership program itself trains 30 emerging community leaders in a nine-month curriculum that broadens their understanding of the various governmental and other systems that impact St Tammany and equips them to participate in community advancement. Interested citizens may apply to the program online at www.leadershipsttammany.org. The deadline for applications to the class for 2015-16 is the end of April.

Article Originally Appeared on nola.com