Jefferson Parish officials, residents react to plan for Bridge City juvenile inmates

Published: Jul. 19, 2022 at 10:26 PM CDT
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BRIDGE CITY, La. (WVUE) - Jefferson Parish officials and residents welcomed Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announcing plans to reduce the population of violent offenders housed at the troubled Bridge City Center for Youth, but felt it should have happened sooner.

Five breakouts involving 20 escapees since last November have left neighbors fearful and feeling hopeless, especially after the latest incident Sunday (July 17) involving six inmates.

The governor said Tuesday that about two dozen of Bridge City’s most violent offenders will be transferred within a month to a temporary unit at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, where they will be kept segregated from the prison’s adult population. The transferred youth then will be moved again once a renovated wing of the state’s women’s prison in Jetson is renovated to house them separately from that adult population.

One of Sunday’s six escapees -- identified by a law enforcement source as 17-year-old Kendell Myles of New Orleans -- is accused of shooting and carjacking a 59-year-old man in Uptown about 14 hours after the breakout.

“I think it’s way too late,” one anonymous neighbor said of Edwards’ plan. “It shouldn’t take someone laying in the hospital fighting for their life for this to happen. It should have been happening.”

Edwards said about half the Bridge City inmates, a group he described mostly as sex offenders, will stay at the troubled facility.

“It’s about time something is happening like this,” State Sen. Patrick Connick (R-Marrero) said. “It will tell these juveniles there are consequences for their actions. They gonna go to Angola for a period of time and won’t be able to escape.”

Connick is one of many leaders who believes the Bridge City center needs to be shut down, something Edwards says is not possible right now.

“It can’t happen overnight, it’s going to be a process,” Connick said. “It’s something the legislature has to look at. Long-term, revamping the whole system. It’s a mess. We happen to have one of the worst juvenile justice systems in the nation.”

Jefferson Parish president Cynthia Lee Sheng also has called for the closure of Bridge City.

“This facility is no place for violent offenders to be housed,” Sheng said in a statement. “The residents that live right there don’t deserve to live like this. They want what we all want -- peace in their homes and feeling safe in their neighborhood.

“We are grateful that the latest incident got the attention of the governor, and we look forward to hearing more long-term solutions to ensure the safety of the community.”

Edwards says a renovated youth facility will open at Swanson in Monroe in 2023. He also said there’s $70 million already committed to constructing new facilities that he said will be smaller and safer.

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