Guards assaulted, injured at Monroe juvenile facility, state lawmaker says

Sen. Heather Cloud wants problem youth sent back to Angola

By: - November 17, 2023 3:06 pm
A view from below of thick mesh fencing and barbed wire


At least one guard was injured and needed to be taken to a hospital Thursday night after five juveniles held at the Swanson Center for Youth in Monroe attacked the facility’s employees, state Sen. Heather Cloud, R-Turkey Creek, told the Illuminator.

Cloud said someone who worked at the facility contacted her about the incident, and she confirmed details with Curtis Nelson, the state Office of Juvenile Justice’s deputy secretary.

“To preserve the integrity of the law enforcement investigation, OJJ will not make any comments at this time,” Nelson said Friday afternoon in a statement to the Illuminator. “However, we are committed to keeping the community informed once the criminal investigation is complete.”

One of the incarcerated youths crawled into the attic and was able to remove a pipe that he used to strike a guard, Cloud said. She didn’t have information on the guard’s condition Friday afternoon, but other guards were also injured, she said.

The five youths destroyed property, including security cameras and ceilings, and jeopardized the safety of the staff, other facility residents and the surrounding community, according to the senator.

Cloud is calling on Gov. John Bel Edwards to return three of the teens allegedly involved in the attack to a temporary juvenile facility at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola. The senator also wants the state to identify other former Angola occupants who’ve since been relocated from the prison. 

The Angola site, located in its former death row building, was used to house the most violent youths in the juvenile correctional system who were involved in riots and breakouts at the Bridge City Center for Youth in Jefferson Parish and at Swanson.

In September, U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick ordered the state to relocate all youth held at Angola in response to a lawsuit that claimed the occupants were subject to cruel and inhumane treatment in violation of their constitutional rights. An appeals court pushed back the deadline Dick set to move the incarcerated youth, but the state shipped them out anyway to a new facility in Jackson Parish. Some teens held at Swanson were previously housed at Angola.

Whether Edwards can even grant Cloud’s request will be up to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeal, which will consider Dick’s ruling in a Dec. 5 hearing.

The governor’s office didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment.

A new, tighter security juvenile facility is being built in Monroe to replace Swanson’s dormitory-style youth prison. Cloud authored legislation last year calling for more stringent penal measures at the northeast Louisiana center, citing the frequent problems at the existing campus.

This story will be updated as more information is received.

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Greg LaRose
Greg LaRose

Greg LaRose has covered news for more than 30 years in Louisiana. Before coming to the Louisiana Illuminator, he was the chief investigative reporter for WDSU-TV in New Orleans. He previously led the government and politics team for The Times-Picayune |, and was editor in chief at New Orleans CityBusiness. Greg's other career stops include Tiger Rag, South Baton Rouge Journal, the Covington News Banner, Louisiana Radio Network and multiple radio stations.