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Millions allocated for security upgrades at EBR juvenile facility unspent; money was tied up in red tape

2 months 3 weeks 4 days ago Tuesday, November 28 2023 Nov 28, 2023 November 28, 2023 5:37 PM November 28, 2023 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE- Over the past two years, the City-Parish allocated $3.5 million for security upgrades at the East Baton Rouge Parish Juvenile Detention facility, but officials say that money was caught up in government red tape and the upgrades were not made.

Now, there is a priority to spend that money because this month alonetwo violent juveniles escaped from the beleaguered facility. It was initially built more than 50 years ago to house the parish's children who committed crimes. However, when Raise the Age took effect, it allowed violent juveniles who were 17 to be housed there as they awaited a trial.

"[The money] was allocated a couple of years ago, and we are not satisfied with how long this has taken," EBR Spokesman Mark Armstrong said. "It's being expedited at this point."

This month alone, David Atkins, jailed for first degree murder and attempted murder, escaped twice. The first escape happened in the middle of November. That's when doors and windows were broken on a wing where they were being housed. Atkins and another teen were recaptured.

Over the weekend, Atkins and a different teen escaped again by going out through an unlocked door and exiting through the roof.

The money that was allocated for the facility was going to be used for two modular units, 26 security doors, security controls and interior security modifications.

"There's a design process we have to go through," Armstrong said. "That's no excuse. It needs to be taken care of right away. That was our question when the last two incidents happened. We are not satisified and we are expediting them."

District Attorney Hillar Moore filed documents to have Atkins moved from juvenile detention to adult jail. We're told similar paperwork could also be filed for the other escapee.

Insiders at the facility tell the WBRZ Investigative Unit there are between 20 to 30 juveniles housed there. All have violent charges and to fix the problem, they believe 17-year-olds charged with murder should be moved to a more secure facility.

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