After a spate of escapes and violent episodes at two juvenile detention facilities last year, Louisiana began housing minors in the old death row of the state’s largest maximum-security adult prison. Officials called the move safe, temporary and rehabilitative. On Friday, a federal judge ordered the teens to be removed from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola by Sept. 15, finding that their constitutional rights had been violated through the prison’s repeated use of solitary confinement, mace and handcuffs, as well as the lack of educational and mental health resources. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick came after the American Civil Liberties Union and other advocates filed an emergency motion detailing two teens’ experiences at Angola — a facility built on the site of a former slave plantation that became known as “the bloodiest prison in the South,” reports the Washington Post. The teenagers, identified as Charles C. and Daniel D., said the combination of a lack of air conditioning during a severe heat wave and days-long stretches in solitary confinement devastated their mental health.
“We are relieved the judge decided to release children from Angola,” said Antonio Travis of the advocacy group Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children. “This decision is long overdue and it’s shameful that it has taken a lawsuit and federal intervention to try to make the Governor and [the Office of Juvenile Justice] do the right thing for our kids.” The state said it had "taken extraordinary measures to ensure the temporary West Feliciana Facility complies with state and federal law requiring the youth to continue receiving education classes, have suitable living conditions, and be completely separated from any adult inmates.” The saga began in August 2022, when the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center and civil rights attorneys sued Gov. John Bel Edwards and Louisiana’s Office of Juvenile Justice over the plan to temporarily transfer minors to Angola.