Federal judge decides youth can no longer be held in Angola facility
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 is over.
Lawyers for the children and their families provided evidence that the youth are routinely held in solitary confinement, deprived of their right to an education, treatment and other rehabilitative services, and have been held in inhumane conditions.
In a packed courtroom, Judge Shelly Dick said the youth’s constitutional rights are being violated and says promises were made and all were broken.
“It’s a win but it doesn’t change the fact that these kids are still being traumatized by the experience,” youth organizer Antonio Travis said.
“Louisiana should be ashamed of how these kids are being treated and with our tax dollars,” continued David Utter, lead counsel and executive director of the Fair Fight Initiative.
Louisiana created the Bridge City Center for Youth in West Feliciana Parish last summer after a series of violent events and breakouts at youth facilities across the state. The Angola site was set up for temporary use until a new facility opens in Monroe this fall.
Office of Juvenile Justice Deputy Sec. Curtis Nelson Jr. released the following statement about the decision:
“It’s a former death row facility with over 5,000 people convicted of serious crimes,” added Utter.
“Kids were used as an experiment for people to wake up,” continued Travis.
The judge expressed concern that placing the teenagers at Angola is not a path toward public safety but a path toward hardening the juveniles. The state disagrees.
“While it addressed safety and security, it ignored it as a primary concern,” said Lem Montgomery, counsel for defendants.
The state calls the ruling a security risk.
“It is not lost on the youth that West Feliciana might not be available. The aggressive behavior began percolating and will continue to do so,” Montgomery added.
Judge Dick ordered officials to remove the teens by next Friday, September 15th.
“We stand ready to help the state close the facility,” said Utter.
The state says it will appeal the judge’s decision as soon as possible.
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