The ongoing legal battle over the fate of juvenile inmates held in Angola prison has come to an end with Judge Shelly Dick ruling in favor of the children and their families. Lawyers representing the youth argued that they were subjected to routine solitary confinement, denied their right to education, treatment and rehabilitation alongside forced into inhumane conditions.
While the ruling is seen as a victory, youth organizer Antonio Travis expressed concerns that the trauma experienced by the kids will not be easily erased. Attorney David Utter, lead counsel and executive director of the Fair Fight Initiative, condemned the treatment of these youth and questioned how Louisiana's tax dollars were being used.
Last summer, Louisiana established the Bridge City Center for Youth in West Feliciana Parish in response to violent incidents and breakouts at youth facilities across the state. Angola served as a temporary facility until a new one in Monroe opens this fall.
Deputy Secretary of the Office of Juvenile Justice, Curtis Nelson Jr., defended the temporary facility's use, emphasizing the need to protect both youth and staff due to space constraints at existing OJJ facilities. Nelson expressed disagreement with the court's ruling and stated their intention to seek an emergency writ while exploring options that ensure the safety of all parties involved.
Judge Dick expressed concern that placing teenagers at Angola would not contribute to public safety but rather harden the juveniles. The state disagreed, considering the ruling a security risk. However, the judge ordered officials to remove the teens from Angola by September 15th, prompting advocates to offer assistance in closing the facility. The state plans to appeal the decision promptly.