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Federal judge won’t block plan to put teens at Angola prison

September 24, 2022 GMT

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A federal judge has decided not to block the state’s plan to move two dozen troubled juvenile offenders from a suburban New Orleans detention center to the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

In a 64-page ruling issued late Friday, Chief U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick denied a motion to immediately halt the plan to move the teenagers to the adult maximum security facility despite calling it “untenable” and “disturbing,” The Advocate reported.

The state’s Office of Juvenile Justice proved in a three-day court hearing this month that it could provide the youth constitutionally required levels of care at the Angola facility, Dick wrote.

“The prospect of putting a teenager to bed at night in a locked cell behind razor wire surrounded by swamps at Angola is disturbing,” the judge said in the ruling. “Some of the children in OJJ’s care are so traumatized and emotionally and psychologically disturbed that OJJ is virtually unable to provide a secure care environment.”

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“While locking children in cells at night at Angola is untenable, the threat of harm these youngsters present to themselves, and others, is intolerable,” she wrote. “The untenable must yield to the intolerable.”

The transfer was proposed in July and would serve as a last resort following increased escapes and fights at the Bridge City Center for Youth in Jefferson Parish. There have been at least four escapes this year, as well as a riot in which 20 juveniles took over parts of the complex.

But the plan has been sharply criticized by criminal justice advocates, former officials and the parents of children currently held at the center. An attorney for the plaintiffs did not immediately return a request for comment.

When exactly youth might be moved to Angola remains unclear. In a court filing earlier this month, attorneys for Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Office of Juvenile Justice wrote that there is no set date on which the agency plans to relocate them.

But Angola is only a short-term solution. Edwards said the juveniles will be transferred to the Jetson Center for Youth in Baker once renovations there are complete.