Concerns about Bridge City Youth Center violence grow

LaToyia Porter is a member of a state task force charged with recommending new standards for state-run youth facilities like the Bridge City Center for Youth.

Porter is aware of the recent outbreak of violence inside the facility.

"It's not an environment that is conducive to rehabilitation. It's not an environment that is always safe," she said.

Porter is more than just a member of the task force. She's also the adopted mother of 17-year-old Travjon Simmons. Simmons was serving juvenile life - which is until the age of 21 - at the Bridge City facility for simple burglary. On Monday, deputies arrested him for simple escape and transported him to the adult jail. Police said Simmons escaped from this Bridge City dorm after two other youth offenders brutally beat two correctional officers and stole a radio and keys.

"He's never had a violent offense. He hurts nobody but himself. You can't place children like that with murderers and rapists and have nothing in place to protect their innocence, or the little bit they have left, and not expect them to turn into wolves," Porter said.

Porter said more needs to be done to protect the youth offenders who are not violent.

"When I have conversations with my son, and when I say things like, 'What are you doing?' or 'Who are you getting in a fight with?' he says, 'Either you fight or you get fought on," Porter said.

She said mental health issues must be addressed, and she believes there should be better communication with the offender's families.

"This is pitiful," said Tracey Gloston.

Gloston and her sister drove in from Lake Charles to talk to someone at the Bridge City Youth Facility last week after her nephew was arrested for two counts of battery on a correctional officer.

"We drove all the way from Lake Charles because we can't get no answers. We call about it and we still haven't heard anything," Gloston said.

"We need to advocate for our children because I think what is happening is we are creating adult criminals because it's not a rehabilitation environment,"  Porter said.

The Office of Juvenile Justice disagrees with Porter. Deputy Secretary Dr. James Bueche told FOX 8 that there are programs at the facility to rehabilitate those offenders who want to participate. He said OJJ employees are also members of the task force, and he's open to the recommendations they'll make.

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