LOUISIANA – Amid rising concerns from youth advocates, the Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ) and the Special School District (SSD) recently admitted that they have no plans in place to provide general and special education services to youth relocating to Louisiana’s Angola prison complex, the largest maximum-security facility in the U.S.
This admission comes after the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) sent three public records requests last week – one to the OJJ, one to the SSD, and one to the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, which has not yet responded – seeking information about the state’s plans to meet the educational and rehabilitative needs of youth at the facility. The SPLC, Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights (LCCR) and Loyola University released a joint letter earlier demanding a written plan for the youth’s education and expressing deep concerns about how the move would stifle rehabilitation and cause the youth to fall further down the school-to-prison pipeline.
Angola sits on the grounds of a former slave plantation and imprisons more than 5,000 people, the majority of whom are serving life sentences. It has become notorious for reports of brutality.
The following statements are provided by:
Lauren Winkler, Senior Staff Attorney, the Southern Poverty Law Center
“Our youth need strong support systems, access to mental health care, a quality education, and outlets for self-expression. But instead of providing them with these supports and services, Louisiana has decided to place the neediest youth among us in harsh facilities that are not equipped to meet their educational and rehabilitative needs.”
Gina Womack, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC)
“What we see and hear time and time again from our families is that youth in secure care aren’t getting an education or other needed services. There is no reason to trust OJJ will be able to provide the necessary educational services to youth at Angola, since they have been failing on every level to meet their responsibilities to provide adequate services, care, and protection to youth in their own facilities.”
Hector Linares, Director of Skills & Experiential Learning, Loyola University New Orleans College of Law
"The complete absence of any written plans confirmed our worst fears that the state is not prepared to house youth at Angola in a manner that is safe, legal, and that provides the educational and rehabilitative services our youth need. Opening any new facility requires extensive planning and forethought, but it is unfathomable that we as a state are considering moving youth to a notorious adult penitentiary in such an impulsive manner.”
Allison Zimmer, Skadden Fellow, Louisiana Center for Children's Rights
“The agencies responsible for educating children in custody have made clear that they have no plan to ensure appropriate and supportive education for children at Angola. This disappointing response provides even more evidence that the decision to move children to Angola is misguided, inconsistent with child development and rehabilitative best practices, and incredibly harmful for our most vulnerable youth.”