Louisiana youths held at adult prison’s old death row suffer heat, isolation, advocates say

Jul 18, 2023, 2:17 PM | Updated: 2:36 pm

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Juveniles held in a former death row building at a Louisiana prison for adults are suffering through dangerous heat and psychologically damaging isolation in their cells with little or no mental health care, inadequate schooling and foul water, advocates say in a federal court filing asking a judge to order that the youths be moved.

The document, filed in Baton Rouge and dated Monday, says state officials have broken promises to provide constitutionally acceptable facilities for young people housed at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola — a remote prison farm with a notorious history of violence. With a spring target date for moving the youths to other facilities having passed, advocates for the juveniles are asking for an order ending the housing of juveniles at the Angola facility.

The state Office of Juvenile Justice did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union and other inmate advocates accompanied the filing with affidavits from three youths who are or have been housed at the facility. All talked of foul water from unsanitary faucets in their cells and inedible food. One said he was slammed against a wall by a guard and, another time, was overcome by a chemical irritant that had drifted from another cell when it was used on another detainee.

The document cited weather data indicating outside heat-index values at the prison in a remote part of southeast Louisiana regularly surpassed 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) and sometimes 130 degrees F (54 degrees C).

There was also an affidavit from a medical expert who said the prolonged solitary confinement the youths are exposed to causes “significant risk of serious psychological harm.” Another expert discussed the physical and psychological dangers of keeping the youths in un-airconditioned cells, with fans that are unreliable.

“The youth at OJJ Angola Unit are at substantial risk of serious physical and psychological harm due to their extensive and continued exposure to high temperatures and heat index during the summer months in Louisiana,” Dr. Susi Vassallo wrote.

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced last July that juveniles would be housed at the temporary facility at Angola, with an aim of ending the practice the following spring, once renovations were complete at a northeast Louisiana juvenile facility. Since then, advocates say, as many as 70 or more have moved through the facility. The population earlier this month was put at 15. The target date for ending youth incarceration at Angola was recently pushed to late November of this year.

When Edwards announced the plan, state officials were under growing pressure to do something after a series of escapes from the violence-plagued Bridge City Center for Youth in suburban New Orleans. One inmate is suspected in a carjacking and shooting that happened before he was recaptured. Establishing a detention center at Angola was described as a last-ditch but necessary measure amid capacity and safety concerns at juvenile detention facilities.

At Angola, state officials say, the youths are segregated from the adult prison population, held at a building that once held convicts awaiting execution.

From the start, juvenile justice advocates assailed the plan to house juveniles at Angola — an adult prison farm with a notorious history of violence. After a lawsuit was filed in August, U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick declined last September to remove the youths. Acknowledging the possible harm, Dick said state officials had shown they could provide shelter and treatment that would comply with the constitution.

“While locking children in cells at night at Angola is untenable, the threat of harm these youngsters present to themselves, and others, is intolerable,” Dick wrote at the time. “The untenable must yield to the intolerable.”

In their latest filing, advocates again asked Dick to end the practice, saying the state failed to keep its promises.

“Defendants promised safe and sanitary conditions. Defendants broke that promise, locking children in barred cells with only a metal bed and metal toilet/sink, unclean faucets and no drinkable water source, and allowing excessive heat in the housing areas to go unremediated during this hot summer in Louisiana,” the juvenile advocates say.

United States News

Associated Press

3 falcon chicks hatch atop the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge in New York City

NEW YORK (AP) — Three peregrine falcon chicks have hatched in a nest built at the top of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge in New York City, officials said. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority Bridges and Tunnels said Friday that the chicks hatched in a nesting box set up by the agency atop a 693-foot-tall (211-meter-tall) tower on […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Baltimore police fatally shoot a man who pulls gun during questioning; detective injured

BALTIMORE (AP) — Police officers in Baltimore fatally shot a man who pulled a gun while they questioned him in a different shooting, authorities said. A detective was shot in the chest, and his protective vest likely saved his life, Police Commissioner Richard Worley told reporters. Police were on the city’s south side investigating a […]

7 hours ago

Associated Press

California teenager arrested after crowd pounded and kicked a deputy’s car

HIGHLAND, Calif. (AP) — A teenager was taken into custody after a crowd of young people swarmed a deputy’s patrol car earlier this month, kicking and punching the vehicle before the deputy could drive away, a California sheriff’s office said this week. The 15-year-old male allegedly opened the driver’s door of the San Bernardino Sheriff’s […]

7 hours ago

Travelers walk through Salt Lake City International Airport Friday, May 24, 2024, in Salt Lake City...

Associated Press

Record broken for most travelers screened at US airports on Friday, according to TSA

A record was broken ahead of the Memorial Day weekend for the number of airline travelers screened at U.S. airports.

8 hours ago

Associated Press

Biden’s message to West Point graduates: You’re being asked to tackle threats ‘like none before’

WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) — President Joe Biden on Saturday told graduates of the U.S. Military Academy that their class is being called upon to tackle threats across the globe and preserve the country’s ideals at home “like none before.” Biden said the phrase, the class motto, was apt for the sorts of challenges they […]

10 hours ago

Associated Press

Texas breaks temperature records amid triple-digit forecast; Oklahoma remains under tornado threat

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Scattered severe storms continued across parts of Oklahoma on Saturday with the risk of possible tornadoes lasting into the night, as some parts of South Texas broke heat records and people were warned of triple-digit temperatures over the long holiday weekend. Memorial Day is the unofficial start to summer, although the […]

12 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.



Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.


DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

Louisiana youths held at adult prison’s old death row suffer heat, isolation, advocates say