Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Louisiana State Penitentiary

The entrance of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as Angola and nicknamed the "Alcatraz of the South" and "The Farm" is seen on October 14, 2013. (Photo: Giles Clarke/Getty Images)

Federal Judge Allows 'Untenable' Plan to Send Juvenile Inmates to Angola Prison

"The move defies all common sense and best practices, and it will cause irrevocable damage to our youth and families," said one children's advocate.

Julia Conley

Critics of mass incarceration are condemning a ruling handed down late Friday by a federal judge in Louisiana, who admitted the state's plan to send teenage inmates at a juvenile detention center to the notorious state penitentiary at Angola was "disturbing" even as she decided the plan could move forward.

Chief U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick ruled that the Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ) can send two dozen children under the age of 18 from Bridge City Center for Youth, located outside New Orleans, to the Louisiana State Penitentiary, denying a motion brought by several law firms and the ACLU to halt the plan.

The plan was proposed by the OJJ after a series of escapes from the Bridge City Center, which were also used as the reasoning behind subjecting youths in the facility to solitary confinement earlier this year.

Dick said in her ruling that "locking children in cells at night at Angola is untenable" but that the state cannot tolerate "the threat of harm these youngsters present to themselves, and others."

She also noted that some of the youths who may be sent to Angola are "traumatized and emotionally and psychologically disturbed" but suggested that the state prison, the largest maximum security prison in the U.S., can provide a more "secure care environment" for them.

Ahead of the ruling, the ACLU warned on Thursday that the plan is "unprecedented and dangerous."

Plaintiffs in the case have accused the state of failing to take "ample opportunity to enact meaningful reforms that act in the best interest of our young people."

"Instead the state has continued to push forward unjust policies and actions that only further traumatize incarcerated youth, their families, and communities," said Gina Womack, co-founder and executive director of Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children (FFLIC), last month. "The move defies all common sense and best practices, and it will cause irrevocable damage to our youth and families."

According to a court filing by the ACLU, youths transferred to Angola will be held "in windowless cells with floor to ceiling metal bars."

Children at the Bridge City Center have been distraught over the possibility of being sent to Angola, The Appeal reported this week, with one 17-year-old suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder starting to "tear out his hair and to not be able to sleep," according to a statement filed in court by his mother.

"Louisiana is failing to protect youth in [its] juvenile justice system!" said Chelsea Maldonado, an investigative researcher for the podcast "Trapped in Treatment."

It was unclear Saturday when the transfers may take place.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Cleaner Air Is Coming' as London Expands Vehicle Pollution Fee to Entire Metro Area

"Around 4,000 Londoners die prematurely each year because of long-term exposure to air pollution, with the greatest number of deaths in outer London boroughs," noted Mayor Sadiq Khan in announcing the expansion.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Amazing News': Historic Shark Protections Approved at Global Wildlife Convention

Up to 90% of sharks targeted by the lucrative fin trade will now be protected, said one advocate.

Julia Conley ·


'The Nightmare Materializes': Far-Right Extremist Itamar Ben-Gvir to Be Israel's National Security Minister

The Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Palestinian Authority said Ben-Gvir's elevation to national security minister could have a "catastrophic impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Jake Johnson ·


Raging Wars, Soaring Hunger Put Women and Girls in Crosshairs, Warns UN

"A toxic mix of crises—conflicts, climate, skyrocketing costs, and the ripple effects of the Ukraine war—are inflicting a devastating toll on the forcibly displaced. This is being felt across the world, but women and girls are particularly suffering."

Brett Wilkins ·


Greta Thunberg Joins 630+ Young People in Landmark Climate Lawsuit Against Sweden

"The Swedish state fails to meet the constitutional requirement to promote sustainable development leading to a good environment for present and future generations," said the plaintiffs.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo