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A federal judge ordered Louisiana prison officials to move youth out of the notorious maximum security “Angola” state prison on Friday over what he considered “cruel and unusual” conditions.

U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick of the Middle District of Louisiana found conditions at the prison violated the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Louisiana Illuminator reported.

Democratic Louisiana Gov. John Edwards made the unprecedented decision to send the youth to the country’s largest maximum security prison after six minors had previously escaped from a juvenile facility.

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Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union sued Gov. Edwards, leading to Friday’s ruling in their favor.

For months, minors have been housed at a former death row wing of Louisiana State Prison. Gov. Edwards had promised the move would be temporary and that no youth at the prison would face retaliation.

The mostly Black boys remained complained of being trapped in sweltering heat amid the highest recorded temperatures in human history. They also accused prison officials of placing them in solitary confinement for up to 72 hours at a time.

“I have seen other kids locked in their cells for several days and even up to weeks for minor infractions and incidents with guards,” one teen stated. “The guards don’t care about us here.”

Judge orders Louisiana officials to remove youth from Angola state prison

In his order giving prison officials until Sept. 15 to relocate the youth to another facility, Judge Dick accused Gov. Edwards of breaking his promise not to allow the prison to retaliate against the youth.

Specifically, Judge Dick found multiple forms of punishment and retaliation used against the youth, including: being locked in their cells for days at a time, denials of family visits, handcuffs and pepper spray, no licensed social worker or professional counselor, no educational activities and inadequate mental health treatment.

The site was once a slave plantation that was converted into a prison during the Civil War. As the largest state penitentiary in the U.S., it has long been criticized for inhumane health conditions for adults.

In a previous statement to The Black Wall Street Times, the Governor’s Office directed questions to the Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice, which denied any wrongdoing.

“Youth at the Center are receiving the care they need with very specific and targeted treatments,” a spokesperson for OJJ said.

Judge Dick disagreed.

Advocates call for action after Friday’s ruling

Antonio Travis, a youth organizing manager with Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children, responded to the ruling.

“Today’s ruling is a step in the right direction, but it isn’t actually progress; it’s simply regaining what we lost last year when the Governor decided to send kids to Angola. There is much more work to be done in order to truly reform this broken system,” Travis said.

Meanwhile, the ACLU responded by calling on Louisiana officials to invest in resources for youth instead of punishment.

“Now, it is time for Louisiana’s leaders to provide the appropriate care and support so all children can thrive and reach their full potential. We demand investment in our children, not punishment,” ACLU Lead Counsel David Utter said. “State officials must address the long-standing, systemic failures in Louisiana’s juvenile justice system. A state where all our children — Black, Brown, and white — have equal access to opportunity is possible.”

The Black Wall Street Times reached out to the Office of Juvenile Justice for a response. On Saturday, they responded with a statement.

“While we disagree with the court’s ruling today and will be seeking an emergency writ, we will continue to explore every option available to us that ensures the safety of staff, community members, and youth in our care.”

To view OJJ’s full statement about the ruling, click here.

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...

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