We’ll be brief . . . and blunt.
Governor John Bel Edwards plan to move—even temporarily—any of the young offenders housed at the Bridge City Center for Youth to Angola is outlandish and unreasonable. The “why” is irrelevant. It is the wrong move. PERIOD.
Yes, we know there have been repeated breakouts, riots and even guards attacked at the Bridge City Center for Youth. In the most recent incident, an escapee is alleged to have committed an armed carjacking where a 59-year old man was shot before he was captured. It is a precarious situation to say the least. The gravity of it is not lost on us.
But the Governor’s plan fails to address the real issues that plague, not only this facility, but our penal system, in general—poor training and low pay for guards and other workers, a lack of quality rehabilitative programming for inmates, and dilapidated, neglected, unsecured facilities.
Why isn’t he talking about the renovations needed to make the Bridge City Center for Youth more secure or training and equipment needed to better prepare the guards at the facility or improving rehabilitation services for juvenile inmates there so that they re-enter society better than they left? What about better pay for the the facility’s guards and other employees? The hourly pay for correctional officers across Louisiana remains below the national average. He should be talking about those things right now instead of planning to move children to Angola.
According to the announced details of Edwards’ plan, youth transferred to Angola would be kept apart from adult inmates. Okay, good luck with that. It has not happened in some time, but inmates break out of Angola, too. By the way, the Louisiana State Prison at Angola struggles with its own issues—staff shortages and poor infrastructure. Hell, earlier this year, Angola announced a plan to move more than 600 of its own inmates to other Department of Corrections facilities because of staff shortages.
Anyway, after a series of improvements, including a new fence, surveillance cameras and installing air conditioning, are made at part of the state women’s prison at Jetson, the youth would be moved there. Sounds like band-aid solutions to hide symptoms, instead of curing the sickness. There is nothing in this plan about addressing the this problem at its root. That’s what we want to hear.
Angola is known for violence, abuse, and sexual assaults. It is hardly a place for the 5,100 men now housed at that plantation of a prison. And we’re not only talking about inmate-against-inmate attacks or even inmates attacking guards. In recent years, Angola guards—the every individuals charged with the care, custody and control of prisoners—have been arrested, charged or convicted for physical and sexual assaults against inmates. Why would Edwards even consider sending minor offenders there for any period of time?
Maybe he just doesn’t care. But we do. And we are adding our voice to others that are calling out the irrationality of this plan.
Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, a grassroots, state-wide organization working to transform the systems that put children at risk of prison, argues that this move will disproportionately impact Black and Brown children even as “the state continues to ignore the needs of young people and their communities and perpetuate a cycle of harm.”
We agree and we call on Gov. Edwards and other state leaders in the Department of Corrections to find another . . . scratch that . . . a better way.