A number of children were locked in a former death row prison in Louisiana in extreme heat with no air conditioning and a limited supply of water earlier this month, according to a legal filing from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
In sworn statements, children incarcerated at the Louisiana State Penitentiary recounted how they were held in cells without windows on days when the heat index ranged from 115 degrees to 132.
One child, identified only as Charles C, said that the youngsters were only allowed to leave their cells once each day to take an eight-minute shower — which they were forced to take while shackled.
”Children in the juvenile system are legally required to receive rehabilitation, education, and treatment,” Tammie Gregg, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, said in a prepared statement.
“But in Angola, for almost a year, the state has subjected children to punishment and abuse, depriving them of their rights and further harming already traumatized young people.”
The ACLU has asked the court to order state officials to immediately move all children out of the unit and stop transfers into the unit moving forward. According to the ACLU, almost all of the children currently held at the facility are Black.
The Louisiana State Penitentiary, known as Angola, is one of the country’s most notorious prison farms. The prison is Louisiana’s oldest and the largest maximum security facility in the United States, home to more than 6,000 prisoners. Its history dates back well over a century, and it has long been dogged by reports of the grevious abuse of people incarcerated there.
The history of children being incarcerated at Angola is significantly shorter. Last summer, after several children escaped from a Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ) facility, Gov John Bel Edwards announced plans to move certain children age 14 and older to Angola — arguing that they needed a more secure carceral facility than OJJ could offer.
Human rights and criminal justice watchdogs in the state protested, with The Appeal noting that OJJ’s mandate to rehabilitate is at odds with the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections’ mission.
The ACLU sued to stop the transfers of children to Angola, but a federal judge ruled the transfers were permissible as long as OJJ promised to provide education and other programming and resources to children at the facility.
Now, however, it seems that at least a share of the children transferred into Angola are being held in cells and conditions designed for the state’s most violent criminals.
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