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St. John boasts top DA’s Office in the state, gets $25K award

LAPLACE — The St. John the Baptist Parish District Attorney’s Office was recognized as the most impactful district attorney’s office in Louisiana during the inaugural Leaders in Law Enforcement Awards Luncheon held Sept. 10 in Lafayette.

The St. John District Attorney’s Office received a $25,000 gift in recognition of this achievement.

St. John District Attorney Bridget A. Dinvaut plans to utilize this gift, which was underwritten by the Joe W. and Dorothy Dorrset Brown Foundation in collaboration with the Community Foundation of Acadiana, to implement a diversionary program for elementary and junior high school children.

Frederick Douglass once stated, “It is easier to build strong children, than to repair broken men.” By reaching children at an impressionable stage of life, Dinvaut hopes this gift will assist the St. John District Attorney’s Office in diverting young people away from the criminal justice system.

Leaders in Law Enforcement Awards recognize the top sheriff’s office and district attorney’s office in the state of Louisiana.

The St. John District Attorney’s Office is already involved in a number of community initiatives with a goal to foster impactful opportunities for those at most risk of falling into trouble with the law. Dinvaut’s office also seeks to rehabilitate first-time non-violent offenders and help them transition into successful and productive members of the community.

The Community Foundation of Acadiana began the Leaders in Law Enforcement Awards to recognize sheriff’s offices and district attorney’s offices that have made significant and measurable impacts on their communities.

Criteria for the Leaders in Law Enforcement Awards include: programs implemented to increase public confidence in law enforcement, objective measures of year-to-year successes or improvements in prosecution, programs making the criminal justice system more accessible to and supportive of victims, efficient use and accountability of tax dollars, progress in professional development, training and technology in law enforcement and prosecution, restorative justice programs, rehabilitation programs and acts enhancing the reputation of Louisiana law enforcement.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry served as the keynote speaker for last week’s inaugural luncheon.

St. John District Attorney Bridget A. Dinvaut, center, receives a check from the Community Foundation of Acadiana.

The Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office was recognized as the top sheriff’s office in the state for its Deputies Making a Change mentoring program, aimed to address incarceration and school drop-out rates among vulnerable male youth.

Dinvaut said she was brought to tears when she heard the St. John Parish District Attorney’s Office had been named the top in the state.

“This is phenomenal. I am so excited for my team because I could not do any of this without everyone working together,” Dinvaut said. “The staff in my office give 100 percent. Everybody pulls together and works together to make sure that we are having an impact on the community, whether it be Opportunity Now, St. John P.R.O.U.D., our victim’s programs or anything they do with the schools.”

Dinvaut added that this award is “absolute motivation” to continue supporting the people of St. John the Baptist Parish.

“We will keep loving, respecting and caring about people and making the criminal justice system the very best that it can be,” Dinvaut said.

Behind the 40 team members of the St. John District Attorney’s Office is the tremendous support network of business partners and community leaders.

Opportunity Now and St. John P.R.O.U.D. are among the initiatives made possible by this community support.

Opportunity Now is a collaboration with the Louisiana Workforce Commission, XP Synergy and Louisiana Rehabilitation Services. It has provided more than 100 low-risk, nonviolent first-time offenders the opportunity to change their trajectory and get on the right path in life.

Sixty-five individuals have completed the program, which boasts a 100 percent employment rate at graduation. Only three of the Opportunity Now graduates have re-offended, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

St. John P.R.O.U.D. is a partnership with former St. John Parish Sheriff Wayne L. Jones. The program name is an acronym for “Providing Resources and Opportunities for Up-flow and Development.”

While Opportunity Now is a reactionary diversionary program, St. John P.R.O.U.D. is a proactive crime prevention program that gives young people between the ages of 17 and 25 life-changing employment opportunities.

Twenty local industries and contractors have partnered with the program, allowing participants to attain jobs with local plants averaging $14 to $16 an hour.

Dinvaut has also instituted a formal Juvenile Diversion Program for eligible first-time offenders.

Another program called “Education Matters” addresses crime prevention and community safety. During annual backpack giveaway events, the St. John District Attorney’s Office provides information on the criminal justice system, sexting, cyberbullying and theft. Students also have the opportunity to experience “A Day in the life of the DA.”