Louisiana has moved eight incarcerated juveniles to a building on the grounds of Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice. (Photo by Jarvis DeBerry)
The Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice clarified Wednesday that it moved eight incarcerated youth to a new facility on the grounds of Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola this week, not 10 young people as originally reported.
The eight young people sent to the Angola site also came from Swanson Center for Youth in Monroe and an old jail in St. Martinville that the state converted into a youth lockup in 2021. They were not moved directly from the Bridge City Center for Youth in Jefferson Parish, as previously reported.
It’s still not clear whether the incarcerated youth were moved to Angola on Tuesday or Wednesday. The Office of Juvenile Justice has not responded to requests for clarification about the timeline for the transfers.
State Sen. Patrick Connick, R-Marrero, told several news media that 10 young people from the Bridge City Center in Jefferson Parish had been moved to Angola Tuesday morning. The Office of Juvenile Justice didn’t contradict Connick’s statements until a day later, when it explained that the young people had been shuffled among facilities throughout the state this week.
The 10 young people Connick had said were going to the Angola site were instead transferred to the Swanson Center in Monroe. Four from the St. Martinville facility and four others from Swanson then ended up at Angola as a result of the shuffle, Nicolette Gordon, spokeswoman for the Office of Juvenile Justice, said in a written statement.
Gordon said the agency is “in the process” of contacting the families and attorneys of the young people who were moved.
Child welfare advocates have said they know of no other state in the country where children and young adults in the juvenile justice system are housed on the grounds of an adult prison. Angola is one of the largest, maximum security penitentiaries in the country.
At Angola, the adult prisoners and incarcerated youth will be kept separate, which is required by federal law. The youth facility is more than a mile away from where incarcerated adults are held.
A violent, group escape from the Bridge City Center in July prompted Gov. John Bel Edwards to announce that some young people would be moved into an empty building that once housed death row inmates at Angola. The facility was more fortified than the state’s youth lockup centers, and it would be more difficult for incarcerated youth to run away or attack staff while held there.
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, breakouts and attacks on staff.
Young people moved to the Angola site are also only supposed to be there for a few weeks at a time. Juvenile justice officials have said they will undergo therapy and programming geared toward curbing their most problematic behaviors, before being transferred out to another facility.
The Office of Juvenile Justice has tried the approach of shifting its most problematic incarcerated youth to a separate facility before with little success.
It opened the lockup in St. Martinville after a wing of the Swanson Center was destroyed during a riot. Like the Angola site, St. Martinville was supposed to house the most challenging youth. Then, NBC and ProPublica uncovered abuse and neglect at the facility. The Office of Juvenile Justice wasn’t providing schoolwork at the site, which is legally required, and relied on solitary confinement to keep young people in line.
The building at Angola is only supposed to be a temporary solution to the OJJ’s security concerns. The agency plans to move the unit housed at Angola into a wing of the new Swanson Center once it is complete.
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