In this file photo from July 2014, a group tours a dormitory at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as Angola. (Photo by Jarvis DeBerry)
Following a lawsuit filed last week, the state of Louisiana will wait until at least Sept. 15 to transfer 25 incarcerated juveniles from a Jefferson Parish detention center to a building on the campus of the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, an adult prison.
Attorneys for some of the juvenile plaintiffs, alongside the ACLU of Louisiana and other advocates, announced the update at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, saying attorneys for Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Louisiana Department of Corrections told them the state would not transfer the youths until Sept. 15.
A coalition of lawyers and advocates, spearheaded by the ACLU, filed a lawsuit last week in an effort to stop the Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ) from transferring half of the roughly 50 residents at the Bridge City Center for Youth to a building in the vicinity of the Angola adult prison. The state would then eventually send the youths to an updated wing of the Jetson Center for Youth in Baker.
With the transfer delayed for three weeks, a federal court in Baton Rouge found no imminent emergency to grant a temporary restraining order that the plaintiffs requested.
The case stems from a July decision by Edwards to approve an order to follow the OJJ’s transfer plan. The relocation was announced after a string of violent fights and escapes at Bridge City. At the time, Edwards emphasized the teenagers and young adults would be kept in a separate building on Angola’s sprawling campus and would have no contact with adult prisoners.
The governor’s office would not comment on the litigation, but spokesperson Eric Holl said the proposed location where the youths would be housed is roughly 1.5 miles away from the adult prison.
David Utter, one of the lawyers who filed the suit, criticized the Edwards administration for devising a strategy that he said would perpetuate a “public policy disaster.”
“To call it a plan, to be clear, overstates it,” Utter said. “It’s a scheme… Louisiana continues to come up with these cockamamie schemes to deal with the juvenile system… It’s just not going to work.”
Ronald Haley, another attorney for the plaintiffs, said he has not received copies of the plan from the state. Haley said the notion that the state would hand select 25 of the most troubled juveniles and send them away lacks due process.
Gina Womack, an advocate and the director of Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, pointed out that the Angola prison is a former slave plantation.
“It is a living monument to slavery,” Womack said.
Correction: The delay resulted from a conference call between both sides in the lawsuit. An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the status of the court order.
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.