There isn’t a lot we can agree on in this country. But generally, the idea that the mistakes you make as a child shouldn’t necessarily haunt you for the rest of your life is one of them. Unless, of course, you’re a Republican lawmaker in Louisiana, and that child happens to live in a Black community. In that case, all bets are off.
Louisiana’s Republican-led House just passed a law requiring certain parishes in the state to create an online portal where the criminal records of juveniles convicted of certain crimes can be viewed. But the catch is that the only parishes required to make these portals are Orleans, Caddo, and East Baton Rogue Parish.
Now if, like me, you don’t have a firm grasp on your Louisiana parishes, here’s what these places all have in common: they’re all parishes with large Black communities.
Supporters of this bill have argued that this is the only way to protect victims and keep the streets safe. But opponents of the bill—even those who don’t necessarily disagree with the concept—have pointed out that it specifically singles out youth in Black communities as a threat. “And I find it very, very racist because that’s where the majority of African American youth are having problems in their community,” Ronald Coleman, the president of the New Orleans Branch of the NAACP, told WDSU.
The bill’s sponsors have argued that it’s race-neutral. “From my perspective, this bill doesn’t target race; it doesn’t target district attorneys; it doesn’t target judges. This bill is about public safety. The public has a right to know. And for too long, the victims have been drowned out in the media by social justice theories that lower the bar on offender accountability,” State Representative Debbie Villio told the local news outlet.
Although lawmakers have focused on violent crime, minors whose records will now be visible on this database include crimes that aren’t necessarily violent, including purse snatching, second-degree robbery, and aggravated burglary.
What’s more, the records aren’t just visible once the minor has been convicted. They include arrest information, custody, and bail decisions, and what happens at trial. Meaning a 14-year-old arrested on suspicion of stealing someone’s purse could have their identity splashed on the internet for voyeurs to follow every minute of their case.
The law isn’t final just yet. It will still have to go before the Republican-controlled Senate and Louisiana Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards. However, it’s worth noting that Republicans have a veto-proof majority in the state legislature, which means the law could go forward with or without Edwards’s approval.