Leadership visits Tangi criminal justice agencies
The 2020 Class of Leadership Tangipahoa recently conducted a tour of the Criminal Justice systems within the parish. Our first stop was at the Tangipahoa Tourism and Visitor’s Center where 21st Judicial District Attorney, Scott Perrilloux, and District Juvenile Judge, Blair Edwards, shared with the group the details of their respective bodies of work. Mr. Perrilloux shared components of the District Attorney’s Office, detailing how his staff of assistant district attorneys assist in the prosecution of cases throughout the 21st Judicial District; this area being made up of the parishes of Livingston, St. Helena, and Tangipahoa.
Judge Blair Edwards followed the District Attorney’s talk with a synopsis of what her court encounters with the juvenile case it hears from throughout the district. She is sole judge in the district hearing juvenile delinquency cases. Judge Edwards explained that she not only hears delinquency cases for youth, she also hears cases involving family matters related to custody, Families in Need of Services “FINS”, and juvenile drug court cases. The judge shared that many of the youth coming into her court have had Adverse Childhood Experiences “ACES”. These traumatic events play a significant role in how a child responds to stimuli that they encounter and, in the bigger picture, contribute to the likelihood of the child being at-risk for involvement in the juvenile justice system.
After our discussions with the District Attorney and Judge, we were off to the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Department “TPSO”, located on Club Deluxe Rd. in Hammond. Here the group was hosted by TPSO’s Public Information Officer, Mrs. Dawn Panepinto, along with personnel leadership from across the department. Mrs. Panepinto and her team shared a wealth of information about the services provided by our sheriff’s department. The D.A.R.E. Program, Young Marines, Active Shooter Training, and Neighborhood Watch oversight are just some of the programs TPSO helps facilitate for the community.
With regards to police work and responding to calls for assistance, our group learned that TPSO received approximately 54,098 calls for service in 2019. A majority of these calls are handled by road deputies and volunteer reserve deputies, with reserve deputies having supplied over 13,000 hours of service. Fully staffed, 12 full-time deputies patrol the roads of the parish per shift, with there being a total of four shifts. Although officials shared that they could use additional deputies on the road, budget constraints have impacted the ability to do so. In addition to the traditional law enforcement work our sheriff’s department engages in, it also undertakes serving criminal and civil subpoenas throughout the parish, serving juror summons, collecting property taxes, and operating the parish jail – a place we’d get to tour firsthand toward the end of our day.
The next stop on our tour was the Florida Parishes Juvenile Detention Center, “FPJDC”, located on Highway 190 exactly 6 miles east of Robert and right next to the Tangipahoa Parish / St. Tammany Parish line. Here the group was met by the Detention Center’s Executive Director, Joseph Dominick. Mr. Dominick shared with us a brief video capturing the center’s programming for detained youth, also available for public viewing via its website; www.fpjdc.org. Mr. Dominick then provided our group with a detailed account of what it is the FPJDC actually does, and we were given a tour of the facility and its grounds.
We learned the FPJDC is a 133-bed regional juvenile detention center, serving Livingston, St. Helena, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Washington parishes. It employs close to 100 personnel members made up of direct care officers, food service cooks, nursing personnel, social service personnel, and maintenance personnel. A majority of these individuals work on one of four shifts that keep the Center staffed 24 hours a day, every day. Walking through the facility, we noticed that it was well kept, clean, and orderly. The kids attend school year-round and are taught by teachers employed with the Tangipahoa Parish School System.
Detention is utilized for youth who are a danger to themselves and/or the public and require secure placement until their case can be disposed of in court. Youth detained at FPJDC have been accused of committing either misdemeanor or felony grade offenses and their average length of stay is approximately 23 days. Some remain in detention upwards of a year, depending on the severity of their charges and how long their case takes to move through the court system. In addition to detention services, FPJDC started a “Post-Adjudicated Youth Placement Program” in January of 2019. With this program, area judges can now place adjudicated (convicted) youth in the custody of FPJDC for treatment and rehabilitation throughout the duration of their sentence.
Leaving the FPJDC, our next stop was the Tangipahoa Parish Jail, operated by the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office. Once inside, we quickly noted the adult jail was a stark contrast to the juvenile detention center we had just left. Our group was met by one of the jail administrators, Sgt. Oscar Garcia, who provided us with a tour of the jail facilities and details of its operations. When entering, the first area our group saw was the “booking area”, where those arrested are processed before receiving their housing assignment. The booking area also contains a row of holding cells for individuals who are unruly upon or during admission.
The jail was built in the 1980s and is showing its age, as we saw moving onto the housing section. One of the housing units was currently under renovation and noted that it had been freshly painted; however, there was clearly more work to be done in other areas of the building. Some of the housing units are two-stories and have rows of cells, with each cell accommodating 2 inmates. Other units are configured more like dorms with open sleeping areas accommodating many inmates. The jail houses approximately 550 inmates and we learned that a majority of these are from arrests within the parish. Although the jail received supplemental revenue from the housing of federal inmates for Immigration and Customs Enforcement “ICE”, this group of inmates proved to be a problematic population within the jail. As such, the jail no longer houses ICE inmates.
Our last stop for our Leadership Tangipahoa Criminal Justice session was at the Tangipahoa 911 facility. This 6000 square foot facility was built in 2005 and is located right next to the parish jail. Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office Captain, Kim Moore, met us there and gave us a rundown of the operations of this highly technical facility and those who work within it. Captain Moore is also the current Chairman of the Board for the Tangipahoa Communications District, which operates the 911 facility. As she toured us through the facility, we were able to see the computer assisted call center and the GPS / mapping software used during the receipt of 911 calls. As we toured the facility, we were able to meet some of the employees who operate the call center and observe them respond to actual 911 calls. Despite the sometimes tragic or horrific calls received by these folks, they operated with a sense of purpose and efficiency. Captain Moore explained that often employees with 911 and TPSO frequently utilize their Employee Assistance Program, to help them with negotiating the stress that comes with the jobs they do.
In closing, we would like to thank District Attorney Scott Perrilloux, Judge Blair Edwards, the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Parishes Juvenile Detention Center, and the Tangipahoa Communications District for all being such gracious hosts to our 2020 Leadership Tangipahoa Class and Criminal Justice Session. We would also like to thank the Tangipahoa Drainage District #1, Tangipahoa Parish Government, and the Florida Parishes Juvenile Justice District for their student sponsorships this year. We have learned so much about our wonderful parish and this wouldn’t be possible without their support.
Tiffany Pines is a lifelong resident of Tangipahoa parish, where she resides with her husband, Cornelius, and their two sons. Her participation in Leadership Tangipahoa is sponsored by Consolidated Gravity Drainage District #1 of Tangipahoa.
Joseph Dominick is the Executive Director for the Florida Parishes Juvenile Detention Center. Joseph holds a BA in Criminal Justice from Southeastern Louisiana University and a Master of Public Administration from Louisiana State University. Joseph has shared a passion for working with at-risk youth and within law enforcement for over 23 years. He is active in his community and has resided in Tangipahoa Parish for the majority of his life.
Nathan Diamond is Chief Code Enforcement Supervisor for Tangipahoa Parish Government. He has been an employee of Parish Government for 15 years. A native of Tangipahoa parish, all of his life, he ensures the parish is clean and beautiful as the constituents of the parish deserve.