Bridge City Youth Center one step closer to being closed for good

Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 4:31 PM CDT

JEFFERSON PARISH, La. (WVUE) - The Jefferson Parish Council on Wednesday, June 29 passed a resolution to close down the youth detention center in Bridge City.

The meeting was heated at times as the state’s Office of Juvenile Justice addressed recent escapes and public safety concerns around the facility.

“Time for talk has stopped and it’s time for action,” Councilman Deano Bonano said.

Bonano crafted a resolution calling for all violent offenders at Bridge City to be moved to a maximum-security detention center immediately and to permanently close the Bridge City facility.

The resolution unanimously passed.

People who live near the facility say they’re tired of living in fear.

“Total disregard for the people who live around this facility,” said a man who lives near the facility. “This facility should have never been put there in the first place.”

With as many as 20 escapes in the past year, riots breaking out, guards overwhelmed and at times seriously hurt, residents and parish leaders say enough is enough.

CRIMETRACKER

“They threatened to burn my house down,” another resident said. “I’m in fear all the time. I want that place closed.”

Deputy Secretary of the OJJ Bill Sommers acknowledged the serious problems. He says right now 47 youth offenders are housed in Bridge City and additional staff was made available to guard them. He also says a new tiered system will eventually kick in, taking the most violent offenders to a brand new maximum security building in Monroe.

But there’s no exact timeline for that to happen.

“I certainly understand what they’re talking about. I really do. We’ve not been good neighbors. We haven’t. To have that many folks go out that many times. I can’t blame them at all,” Sommers said. “This is on us. We’ve got to be better. We’ve got to figure it out. We’ve got to keep the youth inside these facilities.”

The council has written a letter that will go to the governor’s desk requesting the Bridge City facility be closed.

In response, Governor John Bel Edwards issued the following statement:

“The community members who live near Bridge City are understandably concerned, and we took immediate action last week to increase security by bringing in additional personnel from the Louisiana Department of Corrections and the Louisiana State Police.

“The current plan will remain in place for as long as necessary in order to maintain the safety of the youth, employees and the surrounding area. We are working to ensure there will not be any other unfortunate disturbances like we have seen in the recent past. This is a top priority for my office. We know that improvements need to be made at Bridge City, and we are working with the Office of Juvenile Justice and other state agencies to develop a long-term plan to address the ongoing issues. This and other secure care facilities for our troubled youth are needed statewide, and we take seriously the care, rehabilitation and safety of the juveniles, the staff and the community at large.”

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