Governor Edwards Signs Solan’s Law
Governor John Bel Edwards has signed Solan's Law. The new law offers officials alternatives on how to handle juveniles accused of committing crimes. The law is named in memory of Haughton boy Solan Peterson, who took his own life earlier this year at the Ware Youth Center. Now, if you're wondering why this bill is important, let me tell you Solan's story.
It would be more than fair to say that Solan in his 13 years had a bit of a rough life. According to his sister, was largely neglected and abused by his birth mother. She would feed him cold medicine to quiet him down when she didn't want to deal with him...stuff like that. Eventually, he was adopted by a loving, caring family. However, that past trauma stuck with him. He was eventually diagnosed with PTSD due to his rough early years.
Fast forward a few years, Solan foolishly set a paper roll dispenser on fire at Haughton Middle School. Solan's doctor recently changed his medications and as a result, the boy was acting out a bit. In the past, this probably would have resulted in a suspension, maybe an expulsion. But in today's world, the boy was arrested and hauled off to the Ware Youth Corrections Center. The parents protested the decision citing Solan's struggles but their pleas were ignored.
Once at Ware, the boy was placed in solitary confinement. In solitary, the guards are supposed to check in every 15 minutes. However, the guards allegedly neglected their duty. So, you have a scared, troubled boy thrown into solitary at a youth jail...a recipe for disaster and tragedy. A short time later, the boy hung himself in his cell. A tragedy that could have easily been avoid. Over nothing more than acting out due to recent changes in his life.
That's why Solan's Law is important. It seeks to prevent further tragedies like this from taking place. The law also allows for alternatives to juvenile detention, including being released into their parents' custody if they promise in writing to bring the child to court when ordered. It also requires screening that takes into account a child's prior history of delinquency and any "mitigating or aggravating circumstances" when determining whether they need to be detained in a juvenile facility or allowed to participate in an alternative to detention.
Most kids that end up in the system aren't criminals. They are misguided kids acting out for various reasons. I'm proud this law passed. Because instead of ripping troubled or misguided youths away from the people that love and care for them and placing them in jail cells, we're actually trying to help them and rehabilitate them and give them what they need to survive and thrive.