Jefferson Parish Council calls for Bridge City Center for Youth to be shut down

Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 4:44 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - In what was a heated Jefferson Parish council meeting at times, the state’s Office of Juvenile Justice addressed the escapes and public safety concerns around the Bridge City Center for Youth.

“The time for talk has stopped, and it’s time for action,” says Councilman Deano Bonano.

With as many as 20 escapes in the past year, riots breaking out, guards overwhelmed and at times seriously hurt, residents and parish leaders say enough is enough.

Deputy Secretary of the OJJ, Bill Sommers acknowledged the serious problems. He says right now, 47 youth offenders are housed as this facility and additional staff is now available to guard them.

He also says a new tiered system will eventually kick in that will take the most violent offenders to be housed at a brand new maximum security building in Monroe, but there’s no exact timeline for that to happen. Councilmembers say it’s time for the facility to close, and people who live near the Bridge City Facility, says they’re living in fear.

“I certainly understand what they’re talking about. I really do. We’ve not been good neighbors. We haven’t. To have that many folks go out, that many times. I can’t blame them at all. This is on us. We’ve got to be better. We’ve got to figure it out. We’ve got to keep the youth inside these facilities,” says Sommers.

Deputy Secretary Sommers promised the council he’d put his own eyes on the facility and check out any safety measures that needed to be taken care of. Just after the meeting, Sommers did indeed visit the facility and walked the campus.

He told Fox 8 he did see some immediate issues that will be taken care of. Jefferson Parish Councilman Deano Bonano crafted a resolution calling for all violent offenders at Bridge City to be moved to a maximum-security detention center now and to permanently close the Bridge City Facility on River Road.

The resolution unanimously passed. The Council now has crafted a letter that will go to the Governor’s Desk requesting the Bridge City Center for Youth be closed.

The Governor’s Office issued this statement about the resolution.

”The community members who live near Bridge City are understandably concerned, and we took immediate action last week to increase security by bringing in additional personnel from the Louisiana Department of Corrections and the Louisiana State Police,” said Gov. John Bel Edwards. “The current plan will remain in place for as long as necessary in order to maintain the safety of the youth, employees and the surrounding area. We are working to ensure there will not be any other unfortunate disturbances like we have seen in the recent past. This is a top priority for my office. We know that improvements need to be made at Bridge City, and we are working with the Office of Juvenile Justice and other state agencies to develop a long-term plan to address the ongoing issues. This and other secure care facilities for our troubled youth are needed statewide, and we take seriously the care, rehabilitation and safety of the juveniles, the staff and the community at large.”

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