BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — On Friday, Sept. 15, the Office of Juvenile Justice moved the youth housed at the West Feliciana Center for Youth on the campus of Angola prison.
The OJJ met with officials from Jackson Parish who opened a new juvenile justice building in July. This facility can temporarily house the minors while a new Swanson Care facility is being built. OJJ officials said they will ensure the youths keep getting rehabilitation care in Jackson Parish.
On Friday, Sept. 8, Chief U.S. District Shelley Dick ordered that the state move juvenile justice detainees out of the former death row at Angola to different facilities no later than Friday, Sept. 15. The state asked her to stay that preliminary injunction in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana, and Dick denied the request this week.
The order to move the minors was appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which granted a temporary stay on the federal judge’s ruling on Wednesday, Sept. 13.
The OJJ plans to continue with the recent appeal of the ruling by the U.S. District Court. The OJJ disagrees with the court’s ruling. According to OJJ, the ruling contains inaccurate information about West Feliciana Center for Youth conditions.
According to court filings on behalf of the plaintiffs and testimony provided to the court,, minors were punished by being:
- put in solitary.
- kept in cells for more than 23 hours a day.
- kept handcuffed and shackled when showering or during outside rec time.
- Prevented from visiting with their families.
Other concerns included using mace on the minors and lack of staffing and support for mental health, social services and education or special education.
OJJ said the center was a temporary, necessary solution to security issues at OJJ facilities across the state.
Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Legislature passed Act 693 into law, which makes a system for juveniles under the OJJ’s care with low-, medium- and high-risk tiers. OJJ has argued that the youths being held in the former death row on the campus of Louisiana State Prison have the most security needs and pose the greatest threat to the public. OJJ previously said other appropriate facilities were not available.
The OJJ plans to transfer all youth needing intensive therapeutic services to the new Swanson Center for Youth at Monroe, a secure care facility scheduled to open later this year. Once the new Swanson facility is open, no youths in OJJ care are expected to be housed in Jackson Parish.