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Sources: Officials turned blind eye to failures at juvenile jails

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BATON ROUGE- Sources tell the WBRZ Investigative Unit some facilities under the Office of Juvenile Justice's (OJJ) watch are in such disarray, many are unsafe for the juveniles housed there and the adults tasked with watching them. Our sources spoke on condition of anonymity but agreed the Bridge City Center for Youth should be closed.

Over the weekend multiple juveniles broke out of the Bridge City Center for Youth near New Orleans. One of those juveniles shot a man while he was on the run.

This year alone, at least 17 convicts who are housed there for crimes they committed as juveniles escaped the facility. OJJ has long avoided answering questions about their problems. In February, the WBRZ Investigative Unit had an interview set up with the Secretary Bill Sommers. He backed out of that interview hours before it was scheduled, so we caught up with him leaving work.

"We have a staff shortage," Sommers said at the time. "I'm not blaming the staff shortage on the escape, but it's contributing to a lot of things that we can and can't do. We've put a lot of security measures in place throughout the state of Louisiana to try to curtail some of these things."

The WBRZ Investigative Unit found nearly 50 juvenile offenders escaped from OJJ facilities from 2020 until 2021. At least 17 have escaped this year alone at the Bridge City Center for Youth.

- In March, five escaped.

- In April, a 19-year-old escaped.

- In June, about 20 offenders staged a coup, taking over the prison. Five escaped then.

- This past weekend, six juveniles escaped. One of them shot a man during a carjacking in New Orleans.

"The people that live in that area, whether it's Bridge City, ACY or the Bunkie area, it's not a good thing," Sommers said.

There are five OJJ facilities for convicted juveniles across Louisiana.


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