New Orleans Youth Study Center packed beyond capacity

New Orleans Youth Study Center packed beyond capacity

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The mayor signed that ordinance eight months ago, but the Youth Study Center is now overcrowded. It is currently housing 49 juveniles with a capacity of 40.

"The City Council passed a resolution saying they did not want any of these kids, any of them, to be kept in the adult jail. They wanted them all to be treated like kids, and stay in the Youth Study Center," Blake Arcuri said.

Thirteen of them are awaiting trial as adults.

The attorney for the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office, Blake Arcuri, said the jail was first notified last Thursday by phone, about the possibility of transferring youth inmates to the Orleans jail.

He said Sheriff Marlin Gusman promptly denied that transfer.

"Several hours later, they showed up at the jail with several youth offenders attempting to transfer them over to us," Arcuri said.

Arcuri says the six juveniles, the center attempted to transfer, were among the most violent occupants. They are all under the age of 17.

"Those individuals are the worst of the worst, and they would be high security inmates that would be living on our tier and drastically alter the classification," Arcuri said.

While there is a juvenile tier at the jail, Arcuri said mixing the worst offenders from the Youth Study Center with the current juvenile inmate population at the jail, would create a security issue.

Right now, the jail has 22 juveniles. They are all 17 years old, on a tier that can hold 60.

"Adding six, eight, night high security offenders which is what these offenders would be would likely result in a substantial lock down of the unit for most of the day," Arcuri said.

Arcuri pointed out the sheriff recently requested to expand the jail amid criticism; yet, he says the problem is clearly getting worse.

"Well, as we sit today we have several inmates outside of the parish. We can't fit them inside of this building. We have mental health inmates being housed elsewhere. We need a plan to accommodate them , and now we learn that the Youth Study Center cannot accommodate the inmates that the facility is supposed to house," Arcuri said.

The city said they are working with judges and other stakeholders to pursue all options to reduce the population at the Youth Study Center. That includes alternatives to detention, expedited case processing, release from secure custody and transfer to other facilities.

"To me, it looks like another short sighted and a shot from the hip move where they made a decision based on a hope that the inmate population would go down, the number of arrests would go down and the crime would go down without any statistics to back it up," Arcuri said.

The city says the overcrowding issue at the Youth Study Center is a rare occurrence.

Copyright 2016 WVUE. All rights reserved.