Could Louisiana Violate Federal Law Putting Youth in Angola?
If you saw the headline a few days ago, you might have felt just like I did. This doesn't smell right and probably won't end well.
The headline from katc.com read, "Some juvenile prisoners will be moved to Angola Gov. Edwards announced".
Yes, that Angola; the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Once renown as one of the toughest prisons in America; the place where killers go to sit on death row, Angola will house kids not yet old enough to be tried as adults. Albeit these youth are anything but model citizens, the announcement had an "odd" feel to it.
During a press conference, Governor John Bel Edwards described the move as "temporary" and even admitted that the move wasn't optimum, stating, “I understand that this is not the perfect or the ideal plan.”
Edwards stated that the move for approximately 25 of Louisiana's most troubled teens, who will be housed in an area once used as a reception center at Angola as early as next month, was necessary to reduce the inmate population of the problematic Bridge City Youth Center until more facilities could be built or renovated.
In a report from nbcnews.com, Edwards said. “But I do believe that the situation demands an immediate response and these are the best options we currently have to ensure the safety of the youth, the staff and the community.”
That story from NBC News also suggested that this move could possibly bring about Federal violations stating that,
Federal law requires that juveniles be separated — by both sight and sound — from adult prisoners.
Therein lies the rub. The same NBC report states,
“There are common facilities, like the infirmary,” said Hector Linares, a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. “If a youth gets sick or gets injured, how are they going to maintain sight and sound separation for youth that need to go to the infirmary?”
He has a valid point. During prescribed exercise times for these youth, how will they remain removed from "sight and sound" of adult trustee prisoners doing building maintenance?
Linares continued his conversation with the comment, "They have to show us how they plan to meet the requirements of these laws, not just say, ‘Oh, it’s a separate building. Trust us."
In my opinion we are only asking for trouble. Others would counter that drastic times call for drastic measures. But isn't there any other option that wouldn't involve Federal guidelines? It's just a thought.