Parents and lawyers take legal action after young detainees transferred to adult prison before Hurricane Ida
NEW ORLEANS (WGNO– On Tuesday, officials from Loyola Law Clinic at Loyola University announced legal action against the city of New Orleans for its allegedly illegal evacuation of youth incarcerated during Hurricane Ida.
The lawsuit was made public via Facebook, when the Families and Friends of Incarcerated Children of Louisiana (FFLIC), the plaintiff in the case, announced the case via live video.
Lawyers report that Louisiana law prohibits young people from being housed in adult prisons and detention centers, or in the custody of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections. Instead, they should only be held in facilities approved for minors.
According to the lawsuit, the youth housed at the Juvenile Justice Intervention Center (JJIC) in New Orleans were transferred 70 miles northwest to the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Garbriel – an adult prison monitored by the DPSC.
While in prison, young detainees (many of whom were in the preliminary stages of their cases) reported “horrible” conditions, including excessive heat, lack of access to basic hygiene, almost inedible food. and long periods of isolation. They also had eye contact with adult inmates.
FFLIC says the teens were held in the jail for five days, resulting in unnecessary injury and trauma. Several members of the organization, who are the parents of the young people involved in the case, say they have no contact with their children and did not learn their whereabouts until their return to the city.
In a statement announcing the trial, FFLIC Executive Director Gina Womack compared the case to a situation that arose during Hurricane Katrina, when young inmates were transferred to the Orleans Parish Prison before the storm. Womack commented on the lawsuit saying:
“City officials have had 16 years to come up with a better plan to keep our children safe during a
hurricane. Instead, all they did was further traumatize the young people and their parents. All the others
juvenile detention center affected by Ida was able to evacuate their youngster to an authorized minor
establishment. We are still in hurricane season and the city needs to create a new escape plan now. “
As the FFLIC asks the court to declare the city’s evacuation protocol and DPSC partnership illegal, the organization is also demanding changes to prevent similar situations from happening again.
Specifically, the lawsuit seeks to prohibit the city from implementing a similar policy and, instead, to demand a new policy consistent with the state constitution and the Child code.
Hector Linares, the Loyola Law Clinic professor who lodged the complaint with the student practitioners, also commented on the case, saying:
“There is a reason why the law requires that young people be detained in approved facilities and
prohibits them from being placed in adult prisons or DPSC custody. It’s because it’s not sure,
physically or emotionally, so that young people are held in adult prisons.
“In the end, it was illegal for these
children are taken to an adult prison like Hunt, regardless of the conditions. “