Courthouse unveils new calming center for children appearing in court

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By John Oakes

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MANSFIELD, La. (KTBS) – The Desoto Parish Courthouse has unveiled an innovative calming center for children who need to be involved in the justice system. In cases where children are victims, they are often a key witness. According to Judge Amy McCartney, to keep children safe, the system that tries to help them is often the one that must separate them from their parents.

“…while we feel we are improving their situation, and we are, this withdrawal has also caused trauma. And, they bring up that trauma every time they come to court, because every time we’re in court, we talk about the reasons that caused the dismissal.

Lucinda Miles of Volunteers for Youth Justice says other courts have seen positive results from similar projects. The Caddo Parish Courthouse also has a soothing center.

“We saw a child arrive anxious and nervous, perhaps about why he is in court. And you can just, you know, ask them, they have experience, did they love it? Are they happy? What do you feel? And you can see their little eyes light up and they walk away with a smile.

Judge McCartney says the room also gives judges a chance to hear the child in a less stressful environment.

“If the court needs to speak with them, I actually go into the room there, into their environment, play with them on the floor for a few minutes, and then ask whatever questions I might have.”

The room offers interactive screenings and games, as well as interesting and hard-to-describe fun features.

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