Louisiana has moved a group of the most troubled young people at its juvenile justice facilities to a building on the grounds of Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. (Photo by Jarvis DeBerry)
The Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice has transferred incarcerated young people from the Bridge City for Youth to a new juvenile justice facility on the grounds of Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, one of the largest maximum security adult prisons in the country.
Sen. Patrick Connick, R-Marrero, said about 10 young people where moved from Bridge City to Angola at 5:45 a.m. Tuesday. Connick’s district includes Bridge City, where neighbors have been upset about outbreaks and violence happening at the juvenile secure care facility.
“Hopefully this will be a wake-up call for some of those boys,” Connick said.
Connick said head of the Office of Juvenile Justice Bill Sommers told him the transfer had taken place. When reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, Sommers declined to comment on whether any young people had been moved to Angola yet.
“For security reasons, no specific information about the timeframe of transfers will be released,” said Nicolette Gordon, spokesperson for the Office of Juvenile Justice, in a written statement released Tuesday afternoon. “However, [the juvenile justice office] will advise the media when the first group of youth is safely at the West Feliciana temporary facility.”
The new facility at Angola, in West Feliciana Parish, is supposed to house the most troubled youth in Louisiana’s juvenile justice system. The Office of Juvenile Justice has struggled to maintain control at its facilities in recent years. Its three largest centers for incarcerated teens have seen riots, escapes and attacks on staff.
Officials said the building on the grounds at Angola will help them regain control over other centers. It is fortified and easier to secure than other juvenile justice locations.
Child welfare advocates and civil rights attorneys tried to fight the move, saying an adult prison setting clashes with the rehabilitative mission of the juvenile justice system, but they lost a lawsuit to block the transfers. A federal judge said last month the state could proceed with relocating youth to Angola.
The question of who has been transferred is still unanswered. Attorneys for incarcerated youth said the youths’ families have been given no information about who was moved.
This isn’t unusual. The juvenile justice system rarely tells families before they transfer a young person in their care to another location. In 2014, the state shuttered the former Jetson Center for Youth in Baker abruptly in the middle of the night without notice to parents, the incarcerated individuals or even Jetson employees.
The Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, an organization that provides legal representation to incarcerated young people, spent most of Tuesday trying to figure out if any of its clients were moved to Angola, executive director Aaron Clark-Rizzio said.
It was telling that a local politician, Connick, was told about the Angola move before the families and attorneys of the youth affected, he added.
“It seems like this is being done for adults, especially the political allies of John Bel Edwards, and it is not being done for children,” Clark-Rizzio said.
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