A mother of two in Shreveport, La., is facing criminal charges and could be locked up for crimes she did not commit if Caddo Parish, La., District Attorney James E. Stewart Sr. has his way. He wants to punish her for a series of crimes allegedly committed by her children.
Latonya L. Dillard was arrested Aug. 29 and charged with improper supervision of a minor. Her two sons—who are 10 and 12 years old—are accused of committing 12 criminal offenses this year, including two that involve breaking curfew and burglarizing a store two nights in a row.
Stewart says that those crimes are indicative of neglect on the part of the boys’ mother, and if convicted, Dillard will face 30 days in jail and be forced to pay thousands of dollars for the alleged behavior of her sons.
Dillard’s arrest is part of an effort on Stewart’s part to clamp down on truancy and curfew violations, while also holding parents accountable for the behavior of their children. In March, he vowed to prosecute parents whose children were caught in public after hours. He has been working with both the Caddo Parish School System and local police.
After Dillard’s arrest last month, Stewart said, “As I promised to the citizens of Caddo Parish, it is time for parents who neglect their duty to supervise their children to be held responsible for the criminal activity of their children.”
So Stewart’s answer to children with behavioral problems is to separate them from their parents, which in all likelihood will simply contribute to more problems.
As Carimah Townes aptly notes for In Justice Today, “Taking parents away from their kids is traumatic for children, and often manifests in acting out and rule-breaking—the kind of behavior that Stewart, with the assistance of law enforcement and school administrators — wants to eliminate.”
Keep in mind, the reason Dillard was arrested in the first place is that Stewart says she neglected her children, and in response, he wants to subject them to potentially more neglect. Who will provide for them if their mother is incarcerated? Where will they go?
Further, what happens to Dillard if she has to serve those 30 days? Is there a job she might lose? Will she lose her home? How will her bills and her rent get paid?
This policy is backward and will do more harm than good. Caddo Parish should look into creating other diversion programs if it wants to stop truancy and curfew-breaking.
Putting parents in jail is not the answer.
Read more at In Justice Today.