BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — After months of chaos, Governor John Bel Edwards says the Bridge City Center for Youth is under investigation for security and leadership failures, including three employees with the OJJ.
“What happened this past weekend at Bridge City was completely unacceptable,” said Gov. Edwards. “There were numerous deficiencies and failures that contributed to those 6 juveniles escaping this weekend. That includes the violation of approved plan of action to the addition that we made available to the facility on June 17.”
Over the weekend, six juveniles escaped the center, and one allegedly stole two cars and shot a man. Officials say this was the second time this teenager was able to break out of the facility, along with dozens of others in the past few months.
Next month, 25 of the most troubled youth will be temporarily relocated to Angola until renovations are finished at the Jetson Center for Youth in Baker, a facility that currently houses adult female inmates.
Baker Police Chief Carl Dunn and State Senator Regina Barrow are concerned about the move. In 2014, inmates were removed from the facility because it was deemed unsafe, but Edwards says there will be renovations, including a new 12-foot wall.
“Can we really bring that building up to standard into a code which is going to make it safer? I don’t know if we can,” said Barrow.
“I was under the impression at the time that we were two or three years out, but the news started breaking out. It’s going to be a lot sooner,” said Dunn.
Office of Juvenile Justice Deputy Secretary Bill Sommers says juveniles will not come in contact with adult inmates. The teens will continue to receive services, such as education, therapy, and substance abuse classes despite relocation.
“The majority of our juveniles in our secure care are not causing the problems, it is a small number, but they are causing tremendous chaos,” Sommers said.
According to Edwards, the Bridge City Center will continue with safety upgrades including increased OJJ staffing in each dorm, keeping additional staff from LSP and DOC in place to actively monitor and secure the campus, increased communication between augmented and facility staff, and continuous, around the clock, onsite presence by OJJ leadership.
Edwards says the relocation is a short-term solution until the state is able to open more facilities.
“The escapes from Bridge City cannot and will not continue,” said Edwards. “Recent disturbances within the facility have led to problems in the surrounding community and that is not acceptable. We are determined to restore safety and security.”