BAKER, La. (BRPROUD) – Concerns are growing over the treatment of juvenile inmates in Louisiana. In July, Governor John Bel Edwards announced inmates at the Bridge City Center for Youth will be moved to a facility at the state prison, Angola. But youth justice advocates say that will only make things worse.
Youth Justice Advocates held a rally at Jetson Detention Center in hopes of stopping Governor John Bel Edwards from moving juveniles into Angola.
“They can’t protect grown men. I was up there for 26 years, so I know they not going to protect those little kids,” said Shawn Williams, a leader for Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights.
But state leaders are saying the youth will be held in the old reception center, which is one and a half miles away from the adults.
“So as we get medical and educational and mental health up and ready to go, a food service up and ready to go, to be able to make sure that we are doing our own maintenance so no youth will ever come in contact with an adult offender,” said William Sommers, deputy secretary at the Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice.
Officials will also make sure that the youth will have resources. They have partnered with community colleges to better the youth’s future.
“We’re going to look to go into a remote learning mode or some of our vocational training because we want our youth to have those certifications so they can start working,” said Otha “Curtis” Nelson Jr., assistant secretary at the Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice.
St. Charles Center for Faith and Action Executive Director Caroline Durham is not buying it. She believes state officials need to spend money on solutions that will actually help the youth.
“The children need to be engaged with their loved ones,” she said. “And so Angola is a place that does not answer any of the calls. The state of Louisiana about having these children incarcerated are essentially their guardians and have a responsibility to raise them as the governor would raise his own children. And that’s what we’re asking for.”
The juveniles will not be moved until the facility is ready.