First 10 violent juveniles moved from Bridge City to Angola

Published: Oct. 18, 2022 at 11:09 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The Office of Juvenile Justice on Tuesday (Oct. 18) transported the first group of juvenile inmates from the troubled Bridge City Center for Youth to the old death row facility at Angola, the state penitentiary.

Ten of the state’s most violent juveniles were taken to Angola early Tuesday morning, sources tell Fox 8.

The transfer is in response to several escapes and riots inside the Bridge City facility throughout the year.

“Everything is starting to pan out,” Bridge City resident Shelia Veal says. “My heart goes out to the parents of the children they’re moving, but we have to live, too.”

Veal and her neighbors have lived in fear for most of the past year after riots and four breakouts, including one in which 17-year-old Kendall Miles allegedly escaped and nearly killed a man in an Uptown carjacking in July.

The young offenders will be housed at the old death row building that once housed female inmates. That building sits at the very front of the prison’s entrance.

Inside, the two-story facility can house up to 24 young people. Officials say the expectation is to never hold that many at one time.

Each teen will have their own cell to themselves, and will be allowed to complete schoolwork, receive medical care, and have space for recreational time.

“We’ve been busy at work the last 60 or 90 days really trying to get this space up and ready for us,” said Curtis Nelson, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Juvenile Justice.

More: Officials give first walk-through of juvenile facility at Angola

Officials put up a black fabric that completely wraps around the building to ensure nothing can be heard or seen from any of the other inmates on campus. They also added the nearest adult facility is nearly 1.5 miles away from where the teens will be housed.

“We feel very confident that our young people will be able to be housed here without having interaction with any adult inmates,” said Nelson.

The Office of Juvenile Justice provided an exclusive look inside the building a small group of troubled teens will soon call home.

Meanwhile, crews at the Bridge City facility are continuing efforts to make the property more secure after a rash of breakouts in the past 11 months. Workers have cleared debris from around the perimeter fence and officials said it’s been two months since the last juvenile escaped.

Terrence Feazell said he and his Bridge City neighbors feel an extra measure of security from some of the steps being taken, including the increased Louisiana State Police presence.

Sen. Patrick Connick says Gov. John Bel Edwards’ plan to transfer the most dangerous detainees to Angola will be good for the community and for the juveniles to have a better chance of rehabilitation.

“I think it’s good for the neighborhood and for those juveniles to get the help they need in terms of structure,” Sen. Connick says. “Right now they don’t have that.”

Not everyone agrees. The group Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children said in a statement they are “disgusted, outraged, and furious by the judge’s decision” to allow the transfer of juveniles to Angola, and vowed to continue their opposition to the governor’s plan.

“Everything about the move to Angola is concerning,” Gina Womack says. “We think it’s a bad decision.”

Chief U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick made it clear in a 64-page ruling that she was no great fan of sending young inmates to Angola, even if they would be housed more than a mile away from any adult prisoners and segregated from them at all times. But she concluded there was no better alternative, given the threat posed to other youth housed in Office of Juvenile Justice custody and to the public after numerous escapes from facilities such as the Bridge City Center for Youth.

“The prospect of putting a teenager to bed at night in a locked cell behind razor wire surrounded by swamps at Angola is disturbing,” Dick wrote. “Some of the children in OJJ’s care are so traumatized and emotionally and psychologically disturbed that OJJ is virtually unable to provide a secure care environment.

“While locking children in cells at night at Angola is untenable, the threat of harm these youngsters present to themselves, and others, is intolerable. The untenable must yield to the intolerable.”

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