Louisiana Moves Kids out of Angola Prison—for Now
State officials have appealed a federal judge’s removal order and are continuing their fight to lock up children on the grounds of the maximum security prison.
Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg Sep 15, 2023
The Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ) announced on Friday that they have transferred all children out of the state prison known as Angola. But the agency said they intend to move forward with their appeal of a federal judge’s ruling ordering the removal.
In a decision last week, U.S. District Court Judge Shelly Dick ordered all kids to be removed from Angola no later than Friday. On Wednesday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to temporarily stay the removal order so they could consider the state’s emergency request to put Dick’s ruling on hold while the case is appealed.
Dick’s ruling found that the conditions at the Angola unit—which OJJ has named the West Feliciana Center for Youth—“constitute cruel and unusual punishment.”
Though state officials have moved kids out of Angola, the fight is not yet over.
OJJ pushed back on Dick’s findings in their announcement of the removal, stating that they “disagree with the court’s decision, which we believe contained several findings about the conditions at the West Feliciana Center for Youth that are at odds with the facts.”
One child at the prison said in a statement to his attorney that they had been held in their cells for days at a time, only permitted to leave to shower in handcuffs and shackles. Children also reported that guards had maced and attacked them.
When Judge Dick visited the unit at Angola she observed “that the few youth who were not in their cells were handcuffed. One young man was handcuffed while in the dining room alone with two guards,” she wrote in her ruling. She also saw two young people “handcuffed while playing cards with two guards, and another young man was handcuffed while writing in a journal.”
Children at Angola “are being victimized, traumatized, and seriously and irreparably harmed,” Dick wrote.
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