NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - A second juvenile, 15-year-old Michael Gonzales, was transferred to adult jail after he and two others are accused of barricading themselves in a cell at the Juvenile Justice Center last Thursday (Aug. 16).
An Orleans Criminal District Court judge transferred 16-year-old Latrell Alexis from the Justice Center to the adult jail Friday.
Juvenile Justice Center Director Keyshun Webster said both teens were a danger risk.
“We had knowledge that they had homemade weapons that could pose a danger to themselves and to staff,” Webster said.
The NOPD’s SWAT team responded and diffused the situation and no one was hurt.
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro and Mayor Cantrell gave very different comments about just how bad the situation became. Cannizzaro said it was dangerous and out of control, while Cantrell described it as a disruption.
“It was not a riot, but it was a disruption and the staff had an inability to address the inmates at that time,” Cantrell said.
The mayor said she was on the scene that night, and says NOPD doesn’t usually respond to the correctional facility.
“Given the fact that there seemed to be a gap of a crisis intervention team on site, which is a priority, and I’m working, actually, on that and we have to make that happen,” Cantrell said.
Cantrell said she believes having a crisis intervention team on site could prevent incidents like the one last week from happening again, but in the meantime, she said more must be done.
“We need to have staff that knows how to work and manage a population inside the facility,” Cantrell said.
Webster, however, said the facility has staff members that are certified to handle these types of sensitive situations.
“We hire classified employees, and they’re referred to as a juvenile detention counselors and they provide direct care to youth in our custody,” Webster said.
Still, Webster said there are 28 guards at the Juvenile Justice Center now, but more are needed.
“We have several vacancies, so we are under-staffed and we are looking for opportunities to recruit,” Webster said.
Cantrell said while there is a need to have around-the-clock response, it should not fall to the hands of the NOPD.
“I’m working with all of our public safety partners to come up with a solution collectively with being on the scene at all times, but it cannot be the New Orleans Police Department. We need to have a staff who knows how to manager a population inside a correctional facility,” Cantrell said.