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The fight to prevent juveniles from going to Angola continues

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BATON ROUGE - More than a dozen people gathered on the steps of the Capitol Tuesday morning, asking the Office of Juvenile Justice and Governor Edwards to scrap their plans to move 25 of the most violent teenagers from The Bridge City Center for Youth to Angola.

"It can not be done safely or legally. It will do nothing to address the ongoing serious problems in the OJJ facilities," Gina Womack, co-founder of Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children (FFLIC), said.

That plan followed more than a dozen breakouts at the juvenile detention center. In February, Bill Sommers, who oversees OJJ, said they're trying to keep the juveniles detained, but it's still not enough.

"We're doing the absolute best we can from what we have to work with. We're putting security measures in at every facility we have," Sommers said.

Those security measures didn't hold up. A man was shot in New Orleans in July after six teens broke out of The Bridge City Center.

"Sending these kids to the state prison at Angola is punishing the kids for the states failures," a mother who says her son is at the Bridge City Center.

Last week, after a lawsuit was filed to stop the transfer, the Governor's office said it would delay the plans and transfer them to Angola on September 15. Ultimately, the teens will be transferred to the Jetson Center in Baker.

People in Baker also have their own concerns about the teens being sent there. Advocates argue jail is not the solution.

"I went to prison, I became a certified sign language interpreter, a certified veterinary assistant. I got my GED, I help other men get their GED. We need that same type of energy in our community to help educate these people so they don't have to go to prison," a speaker said.

The Governor's office released this statement;

"Gov. Edwards understands that the advocates and families of the young offenders have concerns about this process, which is why members of his office and the Office of Juvenile Justice have met with them and will continue to do so. Ensuring the safety of the youth and staff is a top priority. While we continue to explore all available options, transferring the youth to the Angola facility is the best short term option available at this time, but no youth will be transferred to the temporary facility until everything is in place to ensure they receive proper care. The new temporary facility will be a more secure location that will operate under the guidelines of OJJ outfitted with the properly trained staff, and the youth will continue receiving the programs currently being provided from rehabilitative services to education and mental health. We are working to implement comprehensive plans, both short and long term, but this is a complex process and many factors must be taken into consideration. That work is happening and more details will be released as the plans are finalized."

A hearing on the lawsuit to stop the teens from being sent to Angola is set for Sept. 6 and 7. A meeting in Baker to discuss concerns about moving them to the Jetson Center will happen Sept. 16. 


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