Youth advocates demand more than a pause on juvenile transfers to Angola
Youth justice advocates are asking Louisiana residents to sign a petition to demand that Governor Edwards not move youth to Angola.
On Tuesday, August 30, youth justice allies gathered in Baton Rouge outside the Capitol to demand that Governor John bel Edwards immediately abandon plans to move youth from Bridge City Center for Youth to the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola—one of the most horrific prisons in the country.
Advocates began with a caravan in front of the Office of Juvenile Justice then moved to the Capitol to highlight how the state’s “appalling agenda will only perpetuate a cycle of incarceration and harm for youth,” according to a news release from the Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children.
Instead of pushing forward with the transfer, activists demanded the state recommit to “its promise of transforming the youth justice system into a holistic model of care and support,” stated FFLIC officials. The organization has collected nearly 1,200 petition signatures from concerned Louisianans who want to end all transfer plans.
“The Governor’s plan will do nothing to address the ongoing serious problems in the Office of Juvenile Justice facilities. What our youth need is therapy, education, community, and healing so that we do not lose another generation of children,” said Gina Womack, FFLIC’s co-founder and executive director. “The solution to crime is never more police, more prisons, or stronger sentencing. The solution is stronger and more equitable communities.”
After several escapes and reports of violence from inside Bridge City in July, the governor announced plans to relocate some of the violent juvenile offenders to a separate facility at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. On August 19, attorney Ronald Haley and a group of attorneys with the Claiborne Firm sued Edwards and OJJ to keep these youths out of the adult prison, arguing that the move violates federal law and the youths’ constitutional rights. The state then announced a temporary delay until at least September 15. A hearing on a motion to stop the transfer is scheduled for September 6.
According to advocates with FFLIC, Edward’s decision “follows a chain of systemic failures within Louisiana’s youth prisons, including unlawful solitary confinement, limited access to education, and inhumane living conditions. Advocates condemned the state’s purported solution, noting it punishes youth for OJJ’s blatant mismanagement while exposing them to additional trauma, and outlined their own recommendations – encompassing community investments, mental health support, and access to quality education.”
FFLIC and advocates said they will continue fighting against these transfers until the state agrees to abandon these plans. They are asking Louisiana residents to sign a petition to demand that Governor Edwards not move youth to Angola.
Attending the press conference were: The Claiborne Firm, Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, Southern Poverty Law Center, Black Man Rising, Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, Fair Fight Initiative, the St. Charles Center for Faith + Action, Promise of Justice Initiative, The East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Reform Coalition, PREACH, Ubuntu Village NOLA, Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, Step Up Louisiana, Participatory Defense Movement NOLA, and a parent whose son is at risk of being moved to Angola.
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