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Attorneys ask federal judge to move juveniles out of Angola campus, hearing expected to continue for several days

11 months 3 days 23 hours ago Wednesday, August 16 2023 Aug 16, 2023 August 16, 2023 7:11 PM August 16, 2023 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - Teen offenders who have been deemed too out of control for traditional juvenile facilities want out of Angola. 

The American Civil Liberties Union and others call the children's living conditions at the state penitentiary abusive. On Tuesday, the head director a guard and an instructor all testified. The testimonials touched on cell restrictions, the education program, recreation and overall health. 

The office of juvenile justice calls the youth facility at Angola the Bridge City Center for Youth at West Feliciana. Director Linda London says it's a four to eight-week program for the most violent juveniles. Once the program is complete or the juveniles meet certain criteria they are transferred back to regular facilities. 

"Children are being deprived of humane conditions, children are being shackled, handcuffed. Children display aggression and trauma when trauma and aggression have been displayed," Director of the ACLU Alanah Odoms said. 

Cell restrictions were heavily questioned. The three witnesses defended them, saying that while in cell restriction the juveniles have access to things like educational needs. 

"When you allow children to be referred to as something less than, you allow mistreatment," Odoms said. 

The education the juveniles receive has been questioned since before the facility opened. The lead instructor testified there were things he would have wished went differently - basically saying at launch they weren't ready. 

One of the problems is, right now there is only one classroom but each witness said that two other classrooms were destroyed by the juveniles. During one of those events, a guard was beaten and hospitalized. As for the extreme heat, one of the advocates with the ACLU says they have had two recent power outages. One lasted more than a day. 

The director told the court they replaced a compressor in the AC unit. The guard testified the unit was always at a comfortable temperature. 

On Wednesday, an education consultant testified the juveniles all need a level of education that is not being met with the current program. He claims documents show several days where a teacher was never at the facility or was only there for a short period of time. With those documents, he says the kids will never be academically successful.

A medical monitor spoke to the court about the reported AC problems. She says according to a log that dates back to July 21, the hottest indoor temperature was 90 degrees. On the day they toured the facility, the temperature was in the mid 80s. There were four fans, but poor air circulation. She also testified detailed information about heat illnesses and what issues the medication the juveniles take can cause in heat.

She also testified there were no reports of emergency heat-related issues, but says medical records indicate heat illness symptoms. Currently, the AC is working properly. She testified that if it does not work like that on a daily basis, death is a possibility. There have been testimonies confirming a two-day power outage in which there was no AC. 

The trial is expected to last one more day. Juveniles who have been inside the facility are expected to testify. 

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