This is one of a collection of § 1983 inmate cases filed in Louisiana federal courts to challenge the operation and conditions of confinement in the Louisiana prison system and in parish and city jails throughout Louisiana. These cases have worked their way through the federal courts over the last four decades and are part of this collection, located at PC-LA, JC-LA and JI-LA.
This case stems from a report published in October 1995 by the Human Rights Watch. The report, titled "Children in Confinement in Louisiana," detailed abuse of juveniles confined in secure facilities throughout Louisiana. Former President Jimmy Carter asked the United States Department of Justice [DOJ] to investigate pursuant to its authority under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq. The DOJ determined that a new investigation was appropriate and would not conflict with the DOJ's involvement in the pre-CRIPA lawsuit Williams v. Edwards, [PC-LA-1 of this collection], which challenged conditions of confinement at adult prisons in Louisiana.
On April 25, 1996, the DOJ notified State of Louisiana (State) that it would investigate the State's secure juvenile correctional facilities, including the Jetson Correctional Center for Youth in Baton Rouge (Jetson), the Training Institute at Bridge City (Bridge City), the Louisiana Training Institute at Monroe (later renamed Swanson Correctional Center for Youth) (Swanson), and the Tallulah Correctional Center for Youth (Tallulah).
Because of the severity of abuse found at Jetson and Bridge City, the DOJ took the unusual step of issuing an interim report on July 15, 1996. According to the DOJ, virtually every juvenile interviewed reported being hit, kicked, punched, and strangled by corrections officers. Orthopedic injuries, such as broken jaws and dislocated fingers, were the primary reason detainees sought medical care. Such injuries were reportedly inflicted both by guards and by children whom the guards would bribe to attack other juvenile detainees. Further, detention center staff failed to intervene to protect young and cognitively impaired children from being sexually abused by older children. Detainees hesitated to report abuse for fear of retribution. The DOJ recommended that the State take specific steps to eradicate the abuse at Jetson and Bridge City. On July 30, 1996, the State implemented a statewide program, Project Zero Tolerance, in an attempt to eliminate abuse.
Project Zero Tolerance proved to be ineffective. In its second interim report, issued on October 3, 1996, the DOJ noted that twenty-eight children confined at Tallulah were hospitalized for severe injuries during the first twenty-days of Project Zero Tolerance. Guards escaped detection by beating detainees in areas not monitored by closed circuit video. Guards also allowed children to fight in areas not monitored by video. At Swanson, the DOJ discovered a practice called a "sixty", in which the guards would give a child a package of sixty cookies if that child could injure another detainee significantly enough to require hospitalization. The DOJ believed that the culture of violence was exacerbated by excessive use of physical and chemical restraints. Tallulah and Swanson also had significant problems with suicide prevention, mental health care, HIV testing, sex between detainees and guards, universal blood borne pathogen precautions, and medical care for asthmatics, especially those in boot camp. The DOJ, noting that Project Zero Tolerance was clearly insufficient, recommended that the State take new steps to address these problems, including expanding closed circuit video monitoring.
On June 13, 1997, the DOJ issued its final findings letter, outlining the unlawful conditions that it uncovered at the State juvenile facilities. A copy of the letter was sent to the Court overseeing Williams v. Edwards No. 71-98-B, [PC-LA-1], a case in which the DOJ intervened. The findings letter charged that the State failed to protect juvenile detainees from harm, which was evinced by systematic and life threatening physical abuse and juvenile-on-juvenile violence. Some of the DOJ other concerns related to (1) abuse investigations, (2) classification of detainees, (3) inappropriate commitment of mentally ill and developmentally delayed children to corrections facilities, (4) accessible accommodations for children with physical disabilities (5) dental and medical care, (6) rehabilitative services, (7) staff-to-detainee ratios and training, (8) overly-restrictive mail, telephone, and visitation rules, (9) access to courts, and (10) substandard care for children with HIV or AIDS. The DOJ also asked the Department of Labor to examine the State's work programs for juvenile detainees, suspecting violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
In the Spring of 1998, the District Court in Williams v. Edwards No. 71-98-B, [PC-LA-1] ordered the DOJ, to retour the four juvenile facilities and submit a report on the conditions.
In July 1998, a second private class action lawsuit, Brian B. v. Stalder was filed concerning conditions of confinement at Tallulah. [JI-LA-6]
In November 1998, the DOJ filed suit against the State in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq. (CRIPA), and 42 U.S.C. §14141, alleging unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the Jetson, Bridge City, Swanson and Tallulah facilities. The suit, styled U.S. v. Louisiana, was consolidated with Williams v. Edwards, Civ. No. 71-98-B [PC-LA-1] and Brian B. v. Stadler, Civ. No. 98-886-B-M1 [JI-LA-6] A.A., et al. v. Wackenhut Corrections Corp., et al. CIV.A. 00-246-B-M1 [JI-LA-7] was later also made part of the consolidated cases.
In November 1999, the parties reached an agreement to resolve the education claims in the consolidated cases. The District Court (Judge Frank J. Polozola) approved the settlement and conditionally dismissed the education claims. (Final dismissal came in January 2003 when full compliance was achieved).
In April 2000, the DOJ and defendants entered into a settlement agreement ("the Jena Agreement") to resolve demands for preliminary injunctive relief sought by the DOJ in U.S. v. State of Louisiana, and by the Private Plaintiffs in A.A., et al. v. Wackenhut Corrections Corp., et al. CIV.A. 00-246-B-M1 [JI-LA-7] regarding conditions at Jena Juvenile Justice Center. An amendment to the Jena Agreement was filed on May 9, 2000.
In August 2000, the parties entered into the "2000 Settlement Agreement" which resolved the issues of juvenile justice; medical, dental, mental health and rehabilitative services; and access to the courts. The District Court approved the 2000 Settlement Agreement and conditionally dismissed those claims in October 2000.
In January 2003, the parties entered into the "2003 Settlement Agreement," which dismissed and/or modified various provisions of the 2000 Settlement Agreement. It also provided for the appointment of an Independent Expert to monitor compliance.
In 2004, the parties entered into the "2004 Settlement Agreement," which terminated many of the provisions in the 2000 and 2003 Settlement Agreements, including termination of all provisions relating to the Bridge City and Tallulah facilities and provisions relating to medical and dental care at all facilities. What remained were provisions relating to juvenile justice, rehabilitation and mental health care at Swanson and Jetson.
In January 2006, the Independent Expert determined that the State had reached substantial compliance with the 2004 Settlement Agreement. It was also noted that the State was in the process of implementing a new model for troubled youth in secured care facilities, which moved away from a correctional-based approached, called the "Louisiana Model" (LAMOD).
On April 28, 2006, all parties filed a joint motion to dismiss the cases, citing that the State had reached substantial compliance with the provisions of the 2004 Settlement Agreement. The District Court (Judge James Brady) approved the motion and dismissed all of the consolidated cases on May 2, 2006.Dan Dalton - 02/23/2007