Police chief in Louisiana can’t find a cell for juvenile arrested on attempted 1st-degree murder

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OPELOUSAS, La. (KLFY) – The police chief of Eunice is upset because he can’t find a place to incarcerate a juvenile arrested for attempted first-degree murder. He said if the juvenile would have filled his previous sentence, this crime wouldn’t have happened.

Chief Fontenot said the 16-year-old has been getting in trouble since age 12. His record also included theft, shoplifting, drugs, and burglary of weapons and ammunition including an M-16.

At age 15, the teen was given a juvenile life sentence that lasts until age 21; however, Chief Fontenot said a combination of the Criminal Justice Reform Act and the pandemic released the teen five years early.

“This kid got out when he should have been locked up, and now he’s shooting up in town, hitting an innocent person,” Fontenot told News 10.

The teen arrested for attempted first degree murder should have not been on the streets according to Eunice Police Chief Randy Fontenot. The same juvenile was sentenced to serve juvenile life in 2019 for stealing guns and ammunition from homes but was paroled in less than one year.

“We’re letting criminals out on the street . I mean they’re just turning them loose, early paroling them, getting them out of prison, all so we don’t have the highest incarceration rate in the nation,” Fontenot stated.

He argued the fallout of the Criminal Justice Reform Act and coronavirus response are creating big problems. Both share the goals of reducing prison population.

He said, “It defeats the purpose. I mean now our citizens are more in danger because we’ve got more people out in the streets that should be locked up.”

That includes the 16-year-old arrested for attempted first degree murder. He was returned to his parents within hours because no juvenile detention facilities have room, and the state won’t accept him for parole violation until after his trial.

“This kid because the state released him early may be facing charges as an adult now. That’s a possibility where he could be getting life in prison for the rest of his life. Now did that help that kid any?” Fontenot asked.

We did reach out to the Office of Juvenile Justice about the chief’s complaints. Executive Management Advisor Beth Touchet-Morgan clarified:

“The Criminal Justice Reform Act has no bearing on youth involved with the juvenile justice system. Its reforms are applicable only to adult offenders. As a receiving agency, OJJ is statutorily mandated to take custody or provide supervision services for youth referred by a juvenile court. While the Covid-19 pandemic has provided challenges to the agency, as it has to all citizens, OJJ has been able to continue to provide custody services to all youth adjudicated into their care during the pandemic.”

Chief Fontenot is confident the juvenile will be locked up again, but that will take a trial and court order. He’s worried how long that might take.

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