Gov. Edwards to address troubled Bridge City youth center with plan to reduce population of violent offenders

“We have told the state over and over again, it’s not if but when somebody’s going to get hurt,” said Jefferson Parish Councilman Deano Bonano
Published: Jul. 18, 2022 at 10:50 PM CDT
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BRIDGE CITY, La. (WVUE) - Governor John Bel Edwards will address the future of the troubled Bridge City Center for Youth on Tuesday (July 19), with sources confirming to Fox 8 those plans include quickly reducing the number of violent offenders housed at the facility.

The move comes after six juvenile inmates escaped from the facility over the weekend, with one 17-year-old allegedly shooting and carjacking a man in Uptown New Orleans before being re-captured.

“We have been reviewing what happened this past weekend to determine the best path forward for the youth at Bridge City and also for the surrounding community,” a spokesperson for Gov. Edwards said. “We will be sharing an update on the steps that have been taken in response to the incident and a detailed plan for the future of Bridge City (on Tuesday). The governor’s focus is on ensuring the safety of the youth, the staff and the surrounding community.”

Sources tell Fox 8 the governor’s team met Monday with officials from Louisiana’s Department of Corrections and the Office of Juvenile Justice, which operates the Bridge City lockup. The response to be announced Tuesday will include a plan to transfer several of the most violent offenders currently housed at the center to another facility, likely under DOC supervision.

The Bridge City facility has seen at least four escapes so far this year, and five involving at least 20 inmates since last November.

Rafael Goyeneche, president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, said Bridge City has a litany of problems, going back to its original design.

“This is a barracks setting -- with no cells -- and there’s dorm rooms,” Goyeneche said. “What you’re starting to see is more and more inmates are part of an escape plan. This most recent one, six inmates broke out at the facility. They overpowered a guard, locked the guard in the bathroom and made their escape.”

The facility used to be a home for wayward girls, staffed by nuns, said Jefferson Parish Councilman Deano Bonano. It’s located in the center of a neighborhood, with houses butting up against the property.

“They need someone just like they have at jail -- guards, someone that can control those guys back there,” said Larry Brock, a 50-year resident of Bridge City. “Not what they have now. The younger people today are getting more aggressive.”

A law enforcement source told Fox 8 that Kendell Myles was the 17-year-old escapee arrested after allegedly shooting and carjacking a 59-year-old man near the intersection of Nashville and Loyola avenues Sunday in Uptown New Orleans. The victim was reportedly donating beads to a recycling center, and is hospitalized in critical condition.

Myles was one of six juveniles who broke out of Bridge City on Sunday around 2:30 a.m. All have been re-captured. This was the fourth breakout this year, the fifth since last November, and now some Bridge City residents refuse to leave loved ones home alone.

“The state has taken (Bridge City) over, and over the years turned it into a facility that is housing some of the most violent juvenile offenders in the state of Louisiana, and they continue to escape,” Bonano said. “As far as I’m concerned, the state, Office of Juvenile Justice and the governor have blood on their hands.”

Just weeks ago, the Jefferson Parish Council voted unanimously to ask the state to close the troubled facility. Council chairman Ricky Templet said that among the issues residents are facing is a lack of information being released about escapes.

Templet said he wasn’t alerted, and learned about the latest escape from news outlets.

“It was dismay at first, but once again disappointed,” he said. “The state and the facility still needs to be good partners in doing the right thing to protect our citizens of Jefferson Parish and of Bridge City. It’s obvious that that’s not being done on a day-to-day basis.”

Bonano said the council is considering filing a lawsuit against the state to force the facility’s closure, if change doesn’t come soon.

“We’re not leaving any leaf unturned. We’re gonna try and find a way, if we can, to force that facility to close,” he said. “This is not a facility that was designed to hold violent prisoners.”

This wasn’t Myles’ first time escaping from the facility, Goyeneche said. He also broke out earlier this year.

But Myles was not tried as an adult. He again was adjudicated as a minor and was sentenced to juvenile life, meaning he would be freed upon his 21st birthday, Goyeneche said.

“If you’re a juvenile offender, and you’re already serving juvenile life, you really don’t care because they can’t give you any more than juvenile life unless you commit an offense in which you can be tried as an adult,” he said. “Prosecutors need to make decisions on trying juveniles as adults, not just on basis of their age, but on the basis of danger they pose to the community as well.”

Both Myles and a female minor arrested alongside him are being held in the Juvenile Justice Intervention Center (JJIC) in New Orleans, Goyeneche said.

“They’re the state’s responsibility,” he said. “If they can’t harden and protect the inmates that are in that facility, and the public from having them escape with a frequency that we’re seeing, then that’s on the state.”

Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams’ office said no decision has been made on whether to prosecute Myles as an adult for Sunday’s alleged offenses, including the escape, the shooting and the carjacking of which he stands accused.

“Our decisions on this case referral, as with any case referral, will be based on a review of the evidence provided to us by law enforcement,” Williams’ office said in a statement. “We look forward to the NOPD’s complete and thorough investigation of this matter and will make decisions once all necessary information has been received.”

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