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January 31, 2023

Midyear 2023: Sending children to ‘Angola’ prison raises community alarm

Inequities and failures in the juvenile justice system increased exponentially last fall for about two dozen children—mostly Black children—in Louisiana who were ordered by Gov. John Bel Edwards to be transferred from a state juvenile facility to the former death row unit at Louisiana State Penitentiary.

Better known as Angola State Prison, the penitentiary is the largest maximum-security prison in the United States and, as a former plantation for enslaved Africans, has a long and continuing legacy of abuse, violence and inhumane treatment.

Citing overcrowding and the inability by the state to house these children in a juvenile facility, Edwards authorized the transfer in September.

But the law recognizes that children are different from adults. How does the transfer of children to an adult, maximum security facility work to protect them from abusive treatment in the adult criminal justice system?

Sending Children to Angola Prison Death Row: Implications for Families, Justice, & Reformwill examine that question during the American Bar Association Midyear Meeting in New Orleans.  The panel program takes place on Thursday, Feb. 2, from 1:30 – 3:00 p.m. It is sponsored by the ABA Criminal Justice Section and will feature:

  • Paulette Brown, founder, Mindset Power LLC; past ABA president
  • Ernestine S. Gray, retired judge, Orleans Parish Juvenile Court
  • Kristen A. Rome, co-executive director, Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights
  • Gina Womack, co-founder, Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children

Carla Laroche, director of Civil Rights & Racial Justice Clinic at Washington & Lee University School of Law, will moderate the session.

The panelists will analyze Edwards’ decision and discuss the impact the transfers have on the children, their families and communities; attempts to stop the transfers through legal and community organizing; and the systemic issues hampering children’s success and safety. Centering the children’s well-being will be the focus of the discussion.