‘They want it to be the answer for their own failings:’ Advocates protest temporary move of youth violent offenders to facility at Angola

Youth justice advocates are holding a news conference on the steps of the Louisiana State Capitol to demand more than just a pause on transferring youth violent
Published: Aug. 30, 2022 at 11:21 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 30, 2022 at 6:18 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Youth justice advocates held a news conference Tuesday morning, Aug. 30, on the steps of the Louisiana State Capitol to demand Governor John Bel Edwards immediately abandon his plan to transfer youth violent offenders to Angola.

In July, Gov. Edwards announced plans to move about 25 teenagers from the troubled Bridge City Center for Youth after numerous escapes and riots within the past year.

One man was also allegedly shot and carjacked in July by an escapee from the Bridge City Center for Youth.

“Angola could never be the answer. Yet they want it to be the answer for their own failings,” said Attorney Ron Haley, who filed a five-page federal lawsuit to prevent the state from following through with the plan.

While the federal lawsuit filed by Haley plays out, no transfers to a facility at Angola will take place before September 15.

On Tuesday, the advocates also held a car caravan from the Office of Juvenile Justice to the capitol building. That is where they delivered more than 1,000 petitions from Louisiana citizens who have concerns about the transfer to Angola.

“It can not be done safely or legally. And it will do nothing to address the ongoing serious problems in the OJJ facilities,” said Gina Womack, with the Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children organization.

Advocates say this is just putting a temporary band-aid, on a much bigger problem. And they believe the youth offenders need safe and healthy environments, along with rehabilitative services.

“You have to be 18 to enter a nightclub, 21 to buy alcohol right, but we’re gonna subject teenagers to an adult facility. And not just any adult facility, Angola,” said Terry Landry Jr., with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

One woman’s son is currently in the Bridge City Center for Youth.

“If we are so willing to give up on our children, what does that say about Louisiana. He deserves better, they deserve better,” said Molly S.

“The state has continued to invest in failing systems. They want to build better cages, and lock up our kids,” said Womack.

Governor Edward’s office responded to the press conference with the below statement:

But protesters are demanding a better long-term solution.

“So thus you’re asking me, as a representative of children, to figure out what the appropriate plan should be. You need to ask them up there,. you need to go to the governor’s office,” said Haley.

There will be a hearing at the federal court in Baton Rouge to try and permanently stop the youth transfers to Angola. It will begin on September 6 in front of Chief Judge Shelly D. Dick.

Youth justice advocates held a news conference Tuesday morning on the steps of the Louisiana State Capitol.

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