Department of Justice Seal


THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 1998 (202) 616-2765

WWW.USDOJ.GOV TDD (202) 514-1888


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Justice Department today sued the state of Louisiana for not providing adequate care to more than 1,750 youth in the state's secure juvenile correctional centers.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Baton Rouge, alleges that juveniles in the facilities are at a substantial risk of harm due to unreasonable levels of violence from juvenile-on-juvenile assaults and the use of excessive force and abuse from staff. The complaint also alleges that the juveniles are being subjected to unreasonable isolation and restraints, inadequate medical and mental health care, inadequate general, vocational, and special education, and inadequate rehabilitative services.

"As in all cases, we had hoped to resolve this matter short of contested litigation. Although we are filing a complaint, we continue to be willing to negotiate a settlement," said Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Bill Lann Lee. "At the moment, however, it is clear that federal court action is the only way to protect juveniles in Louisiana's secure correctional facilities from unlawful conditions."

The Justice Department began its investigation in 1996 into the four facilities -- Jetson Correctional Center for Youth, Swanson Correctional Center for Youth, Louisiana Training Institute at Bridge City, and Tallulah Correctional Center for Youth -- after receiving complaints indicating that individuals were not given adequate care.

The investigation was conducted under the 1980 Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), which was enacted to protect the rights of people housed in state and local governmental institutions, including juvenile detention facilities, and the pattern or practice provision of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which covers the administration of juvenile justice and the incarceration of juveniles.

During the investigation, Justice Department officials toured the facilities with experts in the field of juvenile justice, medical and mental health care, education, and institutional abuse; interviewed staff, parents and juveniles; and reviewed records. After careful review, they determined that conditions at the facilities failed to meet minimum constitutional and other federal standards.

Over the past two years, the Justice Department has repeatedly advised state officials of the specific deficiencies and the corrective action needed. The state has failed or refused to address the Justice Department's findings in many critical ways.

"We hope today's action will bring the juveniles confined in these facilities the care and treatment they are entitled to, as well as protect them from further harm," added Mr. Lee.

Since 1995, the Justice Department has reached agreements, short of contested litigation, in three other similar cases, involving juvenile centers in Kentucky, Georgia and Puerto Rico. In each of those cases, juveniles were guaranteed protection from abuse and were assured to receive adequate medical and mental health care and proper educational services.

All three U.S. Attorneys in Louisiana joined the Justice Department in filing the suit. L.J. Hymel, U.S. Attorney in Baton Rouge, said, "Although juveniles are placed in state custody because of violations of Louisiana law, the state has an obligation to house them in a constitutional manner. It is hoped that negotiations will continue between the state and the Department and that all issues can resolved without the necessity of the impending litigation."

The Department has asked that its suit be consolidated with several other private cases, including Williams v. McKeithen and Brian B. v. Stalder, regarding the states juvenile facilities currently pending before U.S. District Judge Frank J. Polozola and scheduled to begin trial on February 8, 1999.

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