ST. MARTINVILLE, La. (BRPROUD) — A social justice organization is calling on Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards to close down a juvenile detention center in St. Martinville.
“Us or Else Now,” a social justice group founded by Atlanta rapper Tip T.I. Harris posted a video on Instagram urging the public to call on Gov. Edwards to close the facility down. The group explains the alleged harsh conditions juveniles housed at the Acadiana Youth Detention Center at St. Martinville are currently living in.
The one-minute video claims that the youth were locked away in solitary confinement for at least 23 hours a day, with no lights, no court-ordered counseling sessions and no education. The video also claims juveniles were placed in full-body shackles, including leg irons, as they walked to the showers. Allegations in the video said juveniles were also abused by the guards.
According to the video, state officials say that the Acadiana Center for Youth at St. Martinville was created to house the “most troubled teens.”
“How is any of this rehabilitation for these kids? We are not going to step aside while this facility creates a pipeline to prison for our kids,” stated on an Instagram post from Us or Else Now, an organization for the liberation of Blacks and all other oppressed people.
Jack Harrison, the director of the Juvenile Defense Clinic, says as long as this facility is allowed to operate, the children will be subjected to terrible conditions.
“This is [an] unfortunate situation at St. Martinville [that] should have never occurred,” said Harrison. “These children should have never been placed in conditions that would be unacceptable even for the most hardened adults. The only bright side to this tragedy is that the Louisiana State Legislature now had the opportunity to address the problem and ban solitary confinement.”
Back in March, The Marshall Project, along with ProPublica, and NBC News, released an article detailing the conditions of the juvenile detention center through the eyes of a 15-year-old and his mother. According to the article, the teen was detained for joyriding in a stolen vehicle and was sent to St. Martinville. He was allegedly placed in round-the-clock solitary confinement.
Apparently, no one heard of this facility.
“It was as if a secret prison had been opened up,” Harrison said to The Marshall Project.
According to the article, no judge, prosecutor, or anyone present in the courtroom had any prior knowledge of this facility.
To cope with the mental trauma, some teens allegedly used “metal shards” to cut holes into the cinder block walls large enough for them to attempt to escape.
Youth in solitary confinement has sparked a debate across the nation. State Representative Royce Duplessis introduced a bill that would restrict the use of solitary confinement in juvenile facilities to four hours at a time and notify the juvenile’s parents and attorney to track the use.
Since the publishing of the article from The Marshall Project, there are no current updates to any changes at St. Martinville.