Plan to move teen convicts to EBR Parish frustrates local leaders over lack of communication
BATON ROUGE- A plan to move some of the state's most troubled convicted teens to East Baton Rouge Parish has drawn the ire of public officials who believe they have been left in the dark about the decision.
This week, an informational meeting was canceled in the City of Baker to go over plans to move individuals from the Bridge City Center for Youth in Jefferson Parish to Angola temporarily before they are brought to the Jetson Center for Youth near Baker.
In 2014, Jetson was shutdown to juvenile convicts in the middle of the night.
At the time, the Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ) secretary said, "These are kids who are the highest risk for future violence or delinquency," Dr. Mary Livers said. "The youth in our secure care facilities have been through everything possible to keep them in the community, and been deemed a threat to public safety."
Fast forward eight years, and that's all changed after a number of high-profile escapes near the New Orleans area that raised questions about who was monitoring the teens in prison.
This week, a meeting that was supposed to provide the public with answers about what was going to happen was canceled because leaders said they didn't have any new information.
"I've been living in Baker almost 35 years now, and there were escapes when it was JCCY (Jetson) and LA Training Institute," Baker Police Chief Carl Dunn said. "I would never wake up to think there won't be any escapes ever. But, I'm the chief now, and I know we will do a great job in supporting Department of Corrections to make sure everyone is safe."
Weeks ago, the Office of Juvenile Justice was clear. It had failed at keeping troubled teens locked up in their secure facilities. Now, local municipalities are frustrated that OJJ is not communicating with them about what the next steps are.
"Some of the rumors we've been hearing about it, the plan, we have our concerns about it," Mark Armstrong with the city of Baton Rouge said. "We want to be kept in the loop, and want to be able to express ourselves if we do have concerns."
Last month, OJJ Secretary Bill Sommers admitted his performance had been less than stellar.
"How would I rate my performance, not very good," Sommers said during a news conference. "It's my job to to keep these kids inside the fence line."
When asked about the lack of communication Tuesday and why officials had to cancel a meeting in Baker, a spokeswoman for OJJ responded, "To my knowledge OJJ has not received a request to attend any scheduled meetings in the City of Baker."
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