Federal judge to decide whether or not to remove youth offenders from facility at Angola

The court fight to decide what to do with violent young inmates and whether or not they should stay in a facility at Angola started Tuesday, August 15.
Published: Aug. 15, 2023 at 10:45 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 8, 2023 at 2:05 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The court fight to decide what to do with violent young inmates and whether or not they should stay in a facility at Angola started Tuesday, August 15.

It was in October of 2022 when some of the states most violent juveniles were transferred to the modified old Death Row facility located on Angola’s campus.

According to the state, 15 youths wound up temporarily housed there because they basically had nowhere else to go.

This happened after repeated breakouts from the Bridge City Center for Youth in the New Orleans area and other juvenile facilities across the state.

Now it’s up to a federal judge, on whether they should stay at Angola or not. As attorneys representing the juveniles are asking the judge to take emergency action and remove them from the facility.

“How long will we continue to allow injustice? How long will we continue to perpetuate the vestiges of slavery in this country? How long will we decide to measure our children by the worst thing, as opposed to the height of their character and the best things about them? How long will we continue to waste our resources not investing in their future, but by investing in continuing to harm them,” said Alanah Odoms, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana at a news conference on Tuesday.

In July, the ACLU and partner organizations filed a motion allegedly ‘Mounting abusive conditions of confinement for teenagers’ at Angola, including solitary confinement, exposure to excessive heat, and no education.

“The state is actively engaged in violating one of its laws and a really, really important law and that is, that the state should not be holding children in solitary confinement,” said David Utter, lead counsel for the Fair Fight Initiative.

Organizers and advocates were critical of the Office of Juvenile Justice and even Governor John Bel Edwards for making this move in the first place.

“It was under democratic progressive leadership that we decided that these types of facilities were not the best to rehabilitate kids. It’s a dog gone shame that under democratic say-so progressive leadership that we’re putting them back in those facilities. That does not make sense. We shouldn’t treat a dog this way, if we were housing dogs at Angola in 130-degree temps, more of y’all would be mad. But since it’s kids that look like me, less of us care,” said Eugene Collins, President of the NAACP in Baton Rouge.

Officials with the governor’s office pointed us to a frequently asked questions link on OJJ’s website, where they try to debunk all the claims made by organizations like the ACLU.

For example, OJJ officials say the unit is indeed air-conditioned, and juvenile inmates are never placed solitary confinement.

“You had one kid who broke out of Bridge City twice. He allegedly shot someone; they are now paralyzed in Uptown New Orleans. What do you say to the victims’ families who are saying, hey we don’t want them out, we want them to stay in Angola,” questioned WAFB’s Lester Duhe’.

“You know, it’s not so much what the victims want. The victims want what we want, everybody here wants a safe public, everybody here wants thriving safe communities. And one of the best ways frankly to rehabilitate anybody, child or adult, is to have some sort of restorative justice with their victims. That’s completely up to the victims, but you know, nobody here is saying that victims don’t have a really important voice in this. But my bet is, that most victims I’ve ever met, what they want is to be safe. And what Louisiana is doing right now is not making us safer,” said Utter.

Attorneys and advocates also did not have a plan as to where the juveniles could be placed right now, they just want them treated justly.

“From a policy perspective let’s hold the state accountable. These kids are in state custody. It’s the state’s responsibility to make sure they are getting what they need, so that they’re not breaking out, so that they’re getting educated, so that they’re actually you know getting the counseling they need,” said Utter.

Officials have confirmed the youth offenders will be moved to a new youth facility in Monroe sometime in late Fall.

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