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Louisiana Children and OJJ

News reports about Louisiana Children and the role of the Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ) and Louisiana’s juvenile justice system in their lives and well-being.

DateNews Report
09/08/2023Federal Judge Orders Louisiana to Move Kids out of Angola Prison, Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg, The Appeal

A federal judge ordered Louisiana officials on Friday to begin moving kids out of the former death row unit at Angola, one of the nation’s most notorious prisons.

In remarks from court, U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick accused state officials of breaking “virtually every promise” they had made when announcing the plan to move children to the prison, according to

08/21/2023 Youth kept at Angola facility receive poor education and are held in cells for discipline, lawyers suggest, at first day of hearing | New Orleans’ Multicultural News Source | The Louisiana Weekly

Now, nearly a year later, the lawyers are back before Judge Dick, asking her to move their young clients, some as young as 15, to “lawful youth facilities” where they would no longer be subject to the mistreatment and shoddy schooling they’ve endured at the OJJ facility at Angola.

08/17/2023 Advocates speak while hearing begins regarding the removal of youth from Angola prison. – Jacquelyn Kisic – WGNO

“As predicted, the state’s unprecedented decision to hold children in abusive conditions inside Angola’s former death row building has resulted in almost a year of devastating effects,” said Nora Ahmed, legal director at ACLU of Louisiana.

08/01/2023Feds weigh in on Louisiana keeping teens at Angola, fear ‘serious and irreparable harm’ – by Jacqueline DeRobertis, The Advocate

The federal government has weighed in on a lawsuit that aims to remove youth from a temporary site at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, saying the facility is seriously harmful and potentially unconstitutional if descriptions of dangerous living conditions and lengthy isolation are true.

07/23/2023Teens in Angola: Is Louisiana’s last-ditch solution to problems in youth prisons safe?
Among concerns over plan to put youth at Angola: Healthcare, meals, exercise — and contact with adults

07/19/2023Children held at former Death Row prison in 133F heat with no AC and limited water in Louisiana: The state began moving children as young as 14 to the facility last year – Abe Asher – The Independent

A number of children were locked in a former death row prison in Louisiana in extreme heat with no air conditioning and a limited supply of water earlier this month, according to a legal filing from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

07/19/2023Advocates fight treatment of juvenile inmates at Angola State Penitentiary – by Kace Kieschnick, Louisiana Radio

A court filing alleges the youth offenders are sleeping in hot conditions, they are isolated and forced to shower while shackled and handcuffed. Southern Poverty Law Center senior policy analyst Delvin Davis said, “The situation of incarceration in Angola is emblematic of a larger systemic issue of juvenile justice in Louisiana as a whole.”

07/18/2023Saying they’re held alone in sweltering heat, teens seek emergency release from Angola lockup – by Jacqueline DeRobertis, The Advocate

“I would not dare to keep my dog in these conditions for fear of my dog dying,” she wrote. “Louisiana’s cruelty to animals laws would not support keeping a dog confined in this heat in a cage. And Louisiana law requires air conditioning in all juvenile detention centers.”

06/29/2023Governor faces critical decision on Louisiana’s juvenile justice approach – by Greg LaRose, Louisiana Illuminator

Ashley Hamilton with the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights paints the Cathey legislation and other bills that target youth offenders as regressively punitive rather than therapeutic. She also challenges claims — in Louisiana and across the country — that juvenile crime is occuring at an increased rate, citing a lack of supporting data.

06/07/2023Better options are needed than returning 17-year-olds to Louisiana’s adult prisons – by Greg LaRose, Louisiana Illuminator

In Louisiana, there are certainly correlations between delinquent youth and a lack of investment in education, public health, recreational opportunities and alternatives to incarceration that span generations. Anyone who can’t see this hand-in-hand relationship clearly doesn’t want to for selfish reasons.

05/24/2023Only truth in juvenile justice ‘transparency’ bill is in its political motives – by Greg LaRose, Louisiana Illuminator

Yet rather than target the prosecutors who let such matters slip through the cracks, the Truth and Transparency in the Louisiana Criminal Justice System Pilot Program from Rep. Debbie Villio, R-Kenner, goes against the grain by removing the veil of confidentiality from juvenile court records.

04/24/2023Louisiana audit finds overpayments in (OJJ) foster care program – by Victor Skinner, The Center Square

LLA Mike Waguespack published an audit report for the Department of Public Safety and Corrections’ Office of Juvenile Justice on Wednesday that evaluated the effectiveness of internal controls over the federal foster care program during the last fiscal year. Auditors found OJJ did not adequately review foster care invoices submitted to the Department of Children and Family Services for reimbursement to ensure billings were accurately calculated.

01/13/2023Louisiana Sued for Incarcerating Kids at Angola Prison Death Row – by Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg, The Appeal

Last year, the Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice began transferring children to Angola, the state’s most notorious prison. Since then, kids say they’ve suffered through horrific conditions and routine mistreatment.

01/10/2023Teens at Angola facility maced, held in lengthy isolation, youths say in legal filings: Court documents contain some of the first public eyewitness accounts of the hotly debated facility – by Jacqueline DeRobertis and James Finn, The Advocate

Two teens held at a new juvenile lockup in a former death row building at Angola said in court filings that youth there have been pepper sprayed, held in solitary confinement for hours with breaks only for showers and regularly had aggressive run-ins with Department of Corrections guards.

12/26/2022Louisiana Could Spend Up To $415,000 Defending Plan to House Youth at Angola in Court – by Jennsen Bentley, Big Easy Magazine – Voice of New Orleans

The expansion allows for an additional $415,000 to defend the relocation of teens from the Bridge City Youth Center to Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola in federal court. Three teenagers filed suit against the Edwards administration in August, arguing that the move is detrimental to their mental health, and could interfere with special education services at least one of the teens is receiving.

12/26/2022After a destructive riot, violence at a Louisiana youth prison didn’t stop, records show – by Jacqueline DeRobertis,

OJJ incident reports for the Swanson facility between June 2021 and June 2022 depict a chaotic year: Youths in certain dorms joined forces to assault those in other units; they hit staff members with broom handles and discussed attacking the adults at the facility; one employee discovered an apparent weapon — a stick with nails protruding from it — outside on a school balcony. Local law enforcement was called numerous times.

12/15/2022State seeks to dismiss lawsuit over youth at Angola, as attorneys push for more access and information – by Nick Chrastil, The Lens

Advocates and civil rights attorneys are not the only ones calling for the state to stop housing youth at the Angola facility. Last month, the administrator of the federal Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention, Liz Ryan, renewed her criticism of housing youth at Angola, saying that they should be moved “immediately.

11/21/2022Funding, violence at juvenile facilities, and a leader’s resignation – by Victor Skinner, The Center Square

The OJJ budget peaked at $182.5 million in 2008-09, then faced steep cuts until it bottomed out at $111.3 million by 2013-14. The OJJ budget has slowly rebounded since to $150.3 million in 2021-22.

11/19/2022Louisiana spent $550,000 making Angola suitable for incarcerated youth – by Greg LaRose, Louisiana Illuminator

The Office of Juvenile Justice spent $550,000 to renovate the former death row facility at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola so they could use it to house incarcerated youth over the next year.

11/18/2022Head of OJJ resigns FridayWAFB Staff

Edwards named OJJ Assistant Secretary Otha “Curtis” Nelson as interim deputy secretary. Nelson joined the agency earlier this year after serving as deputy judicial administrator for the Louisiana Supreme Court Division of Children and Families. The governor said Nelson has more than 30 years of knowledge and experience working with children and families including as an adolescent mental health technician in mental health settings, a court appointed special advocate, a family attorney for children in need of care and delinquency proceedings, and juvenile prosecutor for the 19th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

11/18/2022Office of Juvenile Justice director resigns with Louisiana youth prisons in turmoil – Greg LaRose, Louisiana Illuminator

Sommers had been in charge of the agency since 2020. Assistant Secretary Otha “Curtis” Nelson has been appointed interim deputy secretary, according to the governor.

11/16/2022Lacking space, Louisiana officials ask judges to release incarcerated youth early – by Julie O’Donoghue,

Nelson acknowledged the juvenile justice system is currently in crisis. He said the transfer of incarcerated youth to a building on the grounds of Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, the country’s largest maximum-security prison, should be taken as a sign of distress.

“Angola should be a wake-up call to the entire state of Louisiana,” Nelson said of the new juvenile justice facility he helped open at the adult prison. “So what happened in our state that that became an option?”

11/16/2022Louisiana should remove incarcerated youth from Angola immediately, federal official says – by Julie O’Donoghue, Louisiana Illuminator

“Let me be clear on this point: Children do not belong in adult courts and certainly not in adult prisons and jails,” Liz Ryan, administrator of the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, said at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge.

11/16/2022Louisiana’s state-run juvenile detention facilities no longer accepting kids, citing lack of bed space – by Nick Chrastil, The Lens

“No state agency should take custody and control of a child if they’re not prepared and able to care and protect that child, and provide all of the things a child needs and deserves in the same way a caring parent would,” he (Aaron Clark-Rizzio) said.

11/16/2022Louisiana’s troubled juvenile prisons full, ‘cannot safely accept more youth,’ letter says – by James Finn, The Times Picayune

Louisiana’s troubled youth jails are “at full bed capacity” and can’t accept any more teen offenders, state officials said in a letter last week to youth judges, in which they requested the judges’ help in releasing some low-risk teens back to their communities.

11/16/2022Juvenile judges say New Orleans jail could soon hit capacity: ‘We have a problem’ – by Matt Sledge, The Times Picayune

Faced with the destruction of one “secure care facility” in a riot, and deep problems at others, the state system is turning away youths who have been ordered into state custody.

11/04/2022Our Views: If contract juvenile prisons are this bad, why does Louisiana use them? Staff Editorial,

The state’s supervision of its contractors is at issue here, but so is the responsibility of local law enforcement to oversee the actions of correctional officers that may be seen as colleagues in a small-town setting. Professional standards and humane conduct cannot be divorced away by contractor status of the facility.

10/20/2022Shuffle of juvenile prisoners lands 8 at adult penitentiary by Kevin McGill, Associated Press

A controversial transfer of juvenile prisoners to a temporary facility at Louisiana’s sprawling high security prison farm for adult convicts involves a shuffle of youths to and from four different lockups around the state, officials said Thursday.

10/19/2022Louisiana says 8 incarcerated juveniles were moved to Angola, but not from Bridge City by Julie O’Donoghue, Louisiana Illuminator

The eight young people sent to the Angola site also came from Swanson Center for Youth in Monroe and an old jail in St. Martinville that the state converted into a youth lockup in 2021. They were not moved directly from the Bridge City Center for Youth in Jefferson Parish, as previously reported.

10/18/202210 juvenile offenders now in area of Louisiana adult prisonLMTOnline

State officials stressed that the situation is temporary, while new youth facilities are constructed — and that the young inmates would be segregated from the adult population at Angola.

10/18/2022Angola receives the first wave of Bridge City juvenile offenders By Paul Murphy | WWL-TV and James Finn | Staff writer, The Advocate

According to the Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice, the temporary facility at Angola will be used to rehabilitate youth who identify as needing intensive therapeutic services.

10/18/2022State begins transporting violent Bridge City Youth Center detainees to Angola by Kevin Gallagher, Louisiana Radio Network

Transfer has begun of violent juvenile offenders, from the troubled Bridge City Center for Youth in Jefferson Parish to the Louisiana State Prison at Angola. A bus carrying ten young inmates made the trip to the prison early Tuesday morning. Marrero state Senator Patrick Connick says it took a legal battle to put the plan in motion, but it is now happening…

10/18/2022Bridge City Center moves first round of youths to Angola: OJJ officials maintain this is a temporary plan by Aubry Killion,

The plan includes transferring 24 of the most violent inmates to a temporary transitional treatment unit at Angola. Office of Juvenile Justice officials said those youth offenders will not come in contact with adult inmates, as the unit is more than a mile away.

10/18/2022Louisiana juvenile offenders have been moved to Angola site Julie O’Donoghue, Louisiana Illuminator

The Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice has transferred incarcerated young people from the Bridge City for Youth to a new juvenile justice facility on the grounds of Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, one of the largest maximum security adult prisons in the country.

10/17/2022See inside the old death row building where teens will live once they’re moved to Angola: Teens could be moved in one to two weeks, official says during tour of controversial facility James Finn, The Advocate

On the tour, officials acknowledged that moving teenagers to the notorious state penitentiary is not ideal. It is a product of a system in need of overhaul, they said — overhaul they pledged is ongoing, despite a pattern of what advocates and former youth justice officials describe as the agency’s deepening failure to maintain safety and some services at existing facilities.

10/02/2022Jim Beam column: Juvenile Justice making news/ Jim Beam, The American Press

OK, what did Chief U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick say in her 64-page ruling? She said the plan is “untenable” and “disturbing,” but doesn’t appear to violate federal law.

“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.”

10/02/2022Louisiana won’t say when incarcerated youth might go to Angola, citing ‘security reasons’: Official had said moves would begin by end of SeptemberJulie O’Donoghue, Louisiana Illuminator

The state was looking to move eight incarcerated youths to the Angola site by the end of September, according to testimony a top state juvenile justice official gave in federal court last month. That deadline was apparently missed. Gordon said the agency would notify the media once the first group of youth are “safely” in the new building at the adult prison.

09/30/2022Report: Education in state juvenile detention inadequate – Nick Chrastil and Marta Jewson, The Lens

Schools in Louisiana’s juvenile detention facilities are routinely closed for weeks at a time, often don’t offer enough credits for students to complete grades, and fail to maintain sufficient records, forcing many kids to repeat grades and drop out at much higher rates than schools in the community, according to a new report released by Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights.

09/26/2022Federal judge denies request to halt transfer of violent youth to infamous Louisiana prison – Victor Skinner, The Center Square

A federal judge denied a request to halt plans to transfer violent, troubled youth to Louisiana’s Angola penitentiary, arguing “the untenable must yield to the intolerable.”

09/23/2022Federal judge allows Louisiana to move incarcerated teens to Angola – by Julie O’Donoghue, Louisiana Illuminator

The governor and other state officials have pushed the Angola building as the temporary solution to existing youth lockups being overrun with violence and escapes. Incarcerated teens and children in the facilities have repeatedly attacked each other and staff over the past two years.

09/22/2022Louisiana Wants to Jail Kids at Angola Prison’s Old Death Row – Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg, The Appeal

Young people transferred to Angola will be held in windowless cells with floor to ceiling metal bars, according to the court filing submitted by the ACLU and others. The facility “is going to scream ‘prison’ to young people,” Vincent Schiraldi, an expert for the plaintiffs and the former commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction, testified in early September. During a tour of the unit before the hearing, Schiraldi photographed fire exit plans posted on the walls that stated, “Reception Center – Death Row.”

09/20/2022Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights official blasts plan to house youth at Angola – Staff Report, Plaquemine Post South

The plan to imprison children in Angola is part of a pattern of doubling down on failed approaches, according to Aaron Clark-Rizzio, co-Executive Director of the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights and a public defender for the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office.

The Office of Juvenile Justice needs to consider a smaller, more humane system for addressing youth offenders, he said during an address to the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

09/19/2022Youth advocate says juveniles fearful as they ‘live under the threat’ of being sent to AngolaJacquiline DeRobertis, The Advocate

Moving youths to Angola would lead to “children … enduring more violence and probably [make] them more willing to inflict violence at the end of the day,” Clark-Rizzio said. A doctor specializing in juvenile mental health testified at a hearing over the Angola plan that the move could have long-term consequences for the youths’ psychological wellbeing.

09/13/2022Louisiana could face staffing shortage in moving incarcerated teens to AngolaJulie O’Donoghue, Louisiana Illuminator

Louisiana will likely face challenges in hiring the guards, medical personnel, teachers and therapists and it needs for a new, controversial juvenile justice secure care facility it plans to open later this year at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola.

08/29/2022Dorm brawls, shanks, crawling in the ceiling: Inside a year of chaos at Bunkie’s youth prisonJacquiline DeRobertis, The Advocate

“The vision for the Acadiana Center for Youth…was that it would be a place where people from all over the country could come see how Louisiana was doing juvenile justice, because we were going to get it right,” said Mary Livers, former head of the Office of Juvenile Justice from 2008 to 2016. “We’re, sadly, far from that today.”

08/04/2022How decades of broken promises led to Louisiana’s deepening youth prison crisis: ‘We’re losing generations of children’ – by Jacqueline DeRobertis,

Just two weeks ago, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced plans to move two dozen teens to the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, to be housed in an old building that once held the prison’s death row. A month before, officials deployed department of corrections guards armed with tasers and pepper spray to understaffed youth prisons.

08/19/2022A new federal lawsuit is trying to stop Louisiana from sending juveniles to Angola – James Finn, The Advocate

The extraordinary move comes several years after Louisiana lawmakers promised to refocus the justice system on reforming and rehabilitating youths. A range of public records, interviews with current and former officials and recent outbreaks show that plan largely failed as the state’s youth prisons, from Bridge City to Bunkie, have remained mired in crisis including a slew of escapes and incidents.

06/14/2022Some Louisiana kids are being shipped to juvenile detention facilities in Mississippi and Alabama, potentially violating state law – by Nick Chrastil, The Lens

Plaquemine is not the only place in Louisiana that is sending kids who are arrested out of state. The Lens found that over a dozen cities and parishes are contracting either with the Dothan facility, or another in Natchez, Mississippi, and have together paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars to hold kids from Louisiana — sometimes for just days, but often for weeks or months at a time.

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