By Weekly Press Staff
BATON ROUGE, La. - In a groundbreaking ruling, a federal judge has mandated the transfer of violent offenders currently held at Angola, with a deadline set for Friday, September 15. Additionally, the judge has determined that the Angola Facility can no longer house juvenile offenders.
This legal dispute surrounding the placement of violent young inmates within the Angola facility initiated on Tuesday, August 15. The origins of this issue can be traced back to October 2022 when a group of the state's most violent juvenile offenders found themselves relocated to a modified section of the former Death Row facility situated on Angola's campus. The state's rationale for this relocation stemmed from a perceived lack of viable alternatives, prompted by a series of escapes from the Bridge City Center for Youth in the New Orleans area and various other juvenile facilities across Louisiana.
The responsibility for deciding the fate of these young offenders at Angola now rests squarely with a federal judge. Advocates and legal representatives for the juveniles have passionately implored the judge to take swift action and remove them from the facility.
During a recent news conference, Alanah Odoms, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, raised profound questions about the justice system: "How long will we continue to permit injustice? How long will we perpetuate the vestiges of slavery in this country? How long will we choose to define our children by their worst actions, rather than recognizing the richness of their character and their potential? How long will we squander our resources not investing in their future, but in perpetuating harm upon them?"
In July, the ACLU and allied organizations filed a motion, alleging "escalating abusive conditions of confinement for teenagers" at Angola. These alleged abuses include solitary confinement, exposure to extreme heat, and a lack of access to educational opportunities.
David Utter, lead counsel for the Fair Fight Initiative, underscored the importance of adherence to the law, stating, "The state is actively violating one of its own laws—a particularly crucial one—that prohibits the detention of children in solitary confinement."
Criticism has also been directed at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Governor John Bel Edwards for their roles in transferring the juveniles to Angola. Eugene Collins, President of the NAACP in Baton Rouge, expressed profound disappointment, saying, "It's disheartening that, under the leadership of progressive democratic policies, we are returning these young individuals to such facilities. This approach lacks rationale. If we were housing animals at Angola in sweltering 130-degree conditions, more voices would be raised in protest. Yet, because it concerns children who resemble me, fewer seem to care."
Officials from the governor's office have countered these claims, referring to a frequently asked questions link on OJJ's website, where they aim to debunk these allegations. According to OJJ officials, the unit is equipped with air conditioning, and juvenile inmates are not subjected to solitary confinement.
The issue of victims' rights also emerged during the discussion. David Utter addressed the concerns raised, emphasizing the importance of both safety and restorative justice. He acknowledged the significance of victims' voices in these proceedings.
Regarding the immediate future, attorneys and advocates have yet to finalize a specific plan for relocating the juveniles. Their primary focus remains ensuring that these young offenders receive fair and just treatment. Officials have confirmed that the youth offenders will eventually be relocated to a new youth facility in Monroe, with plans anticipated to be formalized in late Fall.