By any measure, there’s an air of desperate improvisation about where to send the most disruptive young offenders housed in Bridge City Juvenile Jail. And one improvisation that arouses the most skepticism is the redeployment of about two dozen to Angola, the sprawling maximum-security prison of legend.
We agree with the reviews on this one. The Louisiana State Penitentiary is not where juvenile offenders should be, certainly not for very long.
The building where underage prisoners will be housed is a “secure, self-contained housing unit”, Governor John Bel Edwards promised. He said the youths will have no contact with adult inmates and will receive all the services they get at the Bridge City Center for Youth from the Bureau of Juvenile Justice.
This is not an easy problem to solve. We can give Edwards and state officials the benefit of all doubts because of the challenges of turning troubled teenage lives around.
But aren’t there other options?
Defenders of minors and experts have many doubts about the Angolan plan.
Over time, we are reasonably confident that alternatives will be developed for affected adolescents, but the fact is that the most disruptive cases are the most difficult; six Bridge City escapees were only apprehended after allegedly committing multiple crimes in Jefferson and Orleans Parishes – including a daytime carjacking in downtown New Orleans, during from which a man was shot and left in critical condition.
By the time teenagers arrive at Bridge City or other facilities, it’s really the system’s last attempt to avoid serious consequences for them and society if they turn to crime again.
The cynic might suggest that a visit from the real Angola might scare a straight teenager. We doubt it and still doubt, despite the good intentions, that it is easy to separate young people 100% from the general population.
Perhaps the best we can hope for is a very temporary stay in Angola for juvenile offenders.