What problem is being solved by incarcerating kids at Angola?

Jaxon Sumter, 8, holds a sign during a protest outside the Bridge City Center for Youth in Bridge City, La., Thursday, July 21, 2022. Governor John Bel Edwards announced a plan to relocate the Bridge City youth to Angola State Prison. Organizations came together to hold vigil for the youth inside the Bridge City Center for Youth and show they are fighting for their future. (Photo by Sophia Germer, NOLA.com, The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

Gov. John Bel Edwards’ decision to transfer some children from Bridge City to Angola fails to address actual problems at the Office of Juvenile Justice, which cannot adequately hire and retain staff, lacks programming, and apparently cannot keep the prison doors locked (strange that Bridge City suddenly became so escapable). OJJ has more staff (roughly 700) than incarcerated youth (roughly 500), 300% turnover in some positions, and a $160 million budget. Adding a new prison in Monroe, five hours away, is likely as ineffective as sending kids three hours away to Angola. All it will solve is the NIMBYism in Jefferson Parish.

But if they are going to be in Angola, let us embrace the wisdom of the adults in the penitentiary. This includes roughly 25 mentors in the Court Reentry Program, along with veterans in their program, and many others who improve not only themselves but the community around them. By moving kids onto “The Farm,” where incarcerated people provide food service, maintenance, and nearly every task it takes to run this small city, these kids could receive some of the most impactful rehabilitative programming available.

It is a myth that incarcerated men and women lack value. Our organization is just a small sample of what we can do; it makes little sense to bring “free” kids into prisons for a Scared Straight program while locking others away from an opportunity. In lieu of no programs by OJJ, let us create one.

To be clear, we oppose incarceration as the chosen tool of accountability, and we very much oppose exiling kids far from home. Until we make the systemic changes to create holistic accountability, rehabilitation and assimilation, we should be putting the wisdom of our elders together with the children who need it most.

—Norris Henderson, Executive Director

This post originally appeared as a Letter to the Editor in The Advocate (Baton Rouge)

Trials, Tribulations, and More Jails?


Jail versus Prison

First off, let’s get something out of the way. Jails and prisons are not the same things. A jail is defined as a place for people who are awaiting trial or held for minor crimes. Prison is defined as a place where people who have already been convicted of a serious crime are being held. We aren’t coming up with our own definitions, this is straight out of a Merriam-Webster dictionary. It doesn’t get more definitive than that. Although they function as two different things, people often use them interchangeably, which is a serious problem. 

Is East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Actually a Prison? No.

Words mean things.

Some people may be surprised to learn that the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison is not actually a prison. It’s a pre-trial facility, meaning the people being held there have not yet been convicted of anything. So why do they call it a prison when it’s actually a jail? The fix to this problem is quite simple. The Baton Rouge Metro Council has the power to change the name.

Calling it a prison when it is in fact a jail not only harms those being held there but also tarnishes the way people on the outside view what happens within the facility. Last year a study conducted by Professor Andrea Armstrong from the College of Law at Loyola University revealed that the EBR Parish [Jail] had more deaths than any other parish in the state. Since 2012 there have been 57 deaths within the pre-trial facility.

“To me, this is not a problem, this is a pattern. And we need to attack it now. When we have 1, 2, 3 people who are overdosing in our facility that is supposed to be pre-trial, we have a real problem.”

—Amelia Herrera, VOTE Organizer.

Read more here.

Continue reading Trials, Tribulations, and More Jails?

SCOTUS is Waging a War on Our Rights


SCOTUS: Louisiana Congressional Map

Last week, the Supreme Court of The United States (SCOTUS) reinstated Louisiana’s racist map, drawn by Republican legislators earlier this year. 

“District Court Judge Shelly Dick, a Barack Obama appointee, ruled earlier this month that the map likely violated the VRA. Under the map lines, one of the state’s six districts is majority Black, even though approximately one-third of the state’s population is Black. Republicans have a 5-1 advantage in Louisiana’s congressional delegation, with Democratic Rep. Troy Carter representing the one majority-Black seat. Dick had ordered the Louisiana legislature to redraw the map with a second heavily Black district.

The Supreme Court’s stay of that order likely resolves the last redistricting challenge outstanding ahead of the midterms, locking in 50 states’ worth of congressional lines with a little over four months to go until the November election.” – Politico

Read more here.

SCOTUS: Shinn v. Martinez Ramirez

If you thought these Supreme Court Justices were going to stop at abortion rights, you are sadly mistaken. This decision led by Justice Clarence Thomas didn’t get much news coverage, but it will affect millions of Americans who encounter the criminal legal system. 

Continue reading SCOTUS is Waging a War on Our Rights