Criminal Justice
 

Jacqueline Carroll-Gilds says background as lawyer, registered nurse prepared her for Juvenile Court bench

Jacqueline Carroll-Gilds says that her background as a registered nurse and lawyer gives her the unique experience needed to be a judge in Orleans Parish Juvenile Court.

Carroll-Gilds, a psychiatric nurse, ran a state-licensed mental health agency for youth in Mid-City for 11 years called Bridging the Gap. Coupled with her experience as a prosecutor under former District Attorney Eddie Jordan, Carroll-Gilds said, she is the most qualified candidate.

“I hope to bring a mental-health component to the juvenile court bench,” Carroll-Gilds said, adding that she’s used to dealing with kids with severe behavioral problems. “I know the population and what they’re dealing with inside of their homes.”

The juvenile court race attracted six contenders after the incumbent, Judge Yolanda King, was charged with filing a false public record. She’s accused of lying about where she lived on the paperwork she filed to run for her 2013 campaign. She was suspended from the bench after she was indicted in March.

Juvenile Court judges enforce the Louisiana Children’s Code, the portion of state law that pertains to children. They hear cases regarding abuse, neglect, juvenile delinquency, adoption, child support and other matters. Children under the age of 17 who are charged with crimes are seen in Juvenile Court, although they can be sent to adult court if they’re older than 14 and are charged with certain violent crimes.

If she were to be elected, Carroll-Gilds said, she would rely on her experience running Bridging the Gap, which dealt with children and adolescents with severe behavioral problems.

“I think I can look beyond the behavior, which is the crime, and look into delving to see if the family is stable,” Carroll-Gilds said. “There are times when behavior has to be dealt with harshly, with the penal system, but most times I think we can delve into what’s going on and get them into programs like what I had, which was mental health rehab.”

To that end, Carroll-Gilds thinks that the court should better coordinate with community-based services, such as anger management group therapy, family therapy and programs run by licensed social workers. She believes youth prisons are necessary, but she doesn’t think the state needs more.

This isn’t the first time Carroll-Gilds has run for office. In 2010, she ran for Orleans Parish Juvenile Court judge. Before that, the Washington, D.C., native opened her own restaurant, which ultimately failed, worked at the Veterans Affairs medical center in New Orleans, and ran a nursing home in St. Bernard Parish.

She worked in the District Attorney’s office for a couple of years before Hurricane Katrina. While other candidates may have more legal experience or loftier political goals, Carroll-Gilds said she has found her niche with Juvenile Court.

“I’m dedicated to our children. This is the only seat that I desire,” she said. “I have no intentions of moving on to Criminal District Court. And I feel that I’m ready at this stage in my life to bring something to the bench besides a law degree.”

On her personal financial disclosure, Carroll-Gilds listed income of $25,000 to $100,000 last year as an independent contractor and employee at Fit for Life Medical Center in Bowie, Maryland. She earned the same range of income from rental properties.

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