Staffing shortages plague East Baton Rouge juvenile jail as arrests pile up
BATON ROUGE - Staffing shortages at the East Baton Rouge Parish Juvenile Detention facility have leaders making tough decisions about limiting how many troubled teens can be housed there.
"At max capacity, 55 beds are there for juvenile detainees," District Attorney Hillar Moore said. "Based on the destruction, we are at 32 beds and the people we have to house there have committed murder and are repeat violent offenders. And judges have to make a decision. Do you let one person out to make room for another?"
The juvenile facility is run by the city-parish. In March, teen troublemakers incited a riot at the facility, causing damage to an entire wing. Chief Administrative Officer Darryl Gissel said the damage has been fixed, but there are other problems now.
"Right now the big issue we have is not the condition of the facility, but it's finding the staffing," Gissel said. "State law requires we have x number of guards in the center. Nationwide, it's been a hard time recruiting people."
Over the past week, WBRZ learned there have been 441 juvenile arrests in East Baton Rouge this year. Thirteen of the parish's 63 homicide arrests have been juveniles.
There are problems with finding guards at the facility.
"The problems with applications is we have rigorous background checks, because they are dealing with juveniles," Gissel said. "You may start out with 20 people on the list, but only 8 to 10 qualify."
Moore and other city leaders agree that if they can finally hire enough staffers, the work is far from done.
"That facility has always needed to be torn down and made into a modern facility," Moore said. "It never was intended to be what it is right now, but it is."
Any new facility would likely need to be pitched to voters as a proposed tax. Those discussions are expected next year.
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