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Mayor: Baton Rouge needs a new juvenile detention center; details on latest escape

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BATON ROUGE - Two teenage detainees who escaped the youth jail in Baton Rouge got out by forcing open a security door, then climbing on the roof to freedom, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome told the WBRZ Investigative Unit on Monday.

She also said the long-term solution to problems at the facility is a new building -- along with a new parish jail.

Late Saturday, David Atkins and Willie Jackson, both 17, broke out of the East Baton Rouge Juvenile Detention Center. It was the second escape in as many weeks -- and Atkins was involved in each.

He and Jackson are facing murder charges and should be considered armed and dangerous, Baton Rouge police said.

"What we are going to do, and we have already started is mitigating the issues of the physical plant that exists," Broome said. "We also have to think futuristically and we need a new facility... that's the bottom line."

Monday, Broome provided the first insight into how the duo got out. She told WBRZ News 2's Chris Nakamoto that BRPD was contacted within four minutes of the escape.

Officers -- along with the U.S. Marshals Service -- have been searching for Atkins and Jackson ever since.

RELATED: Police identify two youths on run; one is murder suspect who broke out previously

It took two days to recapture Atkins and another teen after the previous break-out.

Broome said that new steps are being taken to increase security. They include:

-replacing the doors damaged during the earlier escape

-upgrading the intercom system, cameras and door control locks

-ordering and installing new fencing with razor wire

The replacement of the door will be complete in early December, with the upgrades to the intercom, cameras and door control locks to be finished by January.

New fencing is in the design phase and will follow.

RELATED: DA sought transfer of juvenile escapee days before latest breakout

WBRZ also learned that a BRPD officer will be placed outside the detention center nightly to work the perimeter.

But Broome said the true long-term solution isn't upgrades, but a new facility entirely. She said her office is engaging the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office in conversations because that department is the chief jailer for the parish.

Any new building would be years away, as no location or funding source is yet secured.

The current detention center is more than 70 years old, and Broome said it was designed to rehabilitate young offenders -- not to hold those accused of crimes such as murder.

Funding for security upgrades was allocated two years ago, she said, but actual improvements have been slow to materialize due to red tape.


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