BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — An attempted riot at an Alabama juvenile detention facility earlier this month led to several teenagers from Louisiana who had been staying there being kicked out, officials and police reports confirm.
On July 5, police responded to the Southeast Alabama Youth Services Diversion Center in Dothan following a report of juveniles trying to start a riot at the facility. According to Capt. Will Glover of the Dothan Police Department, several of the juveniles at the facility had injured a guard by striking his head before a fight broke out.
“From speaking with the supervisor, what I remember was it was these three that were causing all the problems,” Glover said. “They were attempting to harm employees and cause damage to the building.”
Glover said officers were able to take care of the situation without further injuries or damage. The injured guard was later taken to a nearby hospital, where he received stitches around his eye.
Through the investigation, it was determined that three of the inmates, all of whom were from Louisiana and had been temporarily staying at SAYS the last few months, were the ones who had started the fight.
As a result, the three teens, as well as 11 others who had been sent to SAYS from different parts of Louisiana, were kicked out of the facility, according to Maj. Zach Simmers of the West Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office, who acts as a liaison to the District Attorney’s office in Louisiana’s 18th District. Simmers confirmed that the DA’s office received a call from SAYS saying they needed to pick up the teens, two of whom were facing prosecution in the district.
“They said they were no longer welcome there,” Simmers said.
Simmers and other point to the latest incident at SAYS as an example of the challenges Louisiana has had in finding places to keep juveniles offenders, oftentimes having to send them to other states while they await trial. For example, Simmers said there are no juvenile facilities in the 18th District, which includes the Iberville, Pointe Coupe and West Baton Rouge parishes, and the few available in the state are mostly at capacity.
“A lot of times, they don’t take kids from other jurisdictions,” Simmers said.
In an article recently published in The Times-Picayune, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that some teens from the Bridge City juvenile prison, where at least 26 inmates have escaped so far this year, would be kept in a “secure, independent housing unit,” at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. The prison, better known as Angola, is the largest maximum-security prisons in the country and, not long ago, one of its most violent.
In an interview with WBRZ, which initially broke the story, District Attorney Tony Clayton said the attempted riot at SAYS highlights the flawed juvenile system in Louisiana.
“I’m beginning to think that (Office of Juvenile Justice) OJJ stands for ‘Oh, it’s just a joke,'” Clayton said. “The way that they handle juveniles in this state, it’s time for them to be held accountable for their job.”
Simmers said of the two juveniles from the West Baton Rouge district, one is facing murder charges while another is facing battery charges. He said one of the juveniles has since been sent to a facility in Mississippi while the other was released on an ankle monitor.
Simmers said that when it comes to dealing with juvenile offenders and where to keep them, law enforcement’s hands are often tied.
“Some of these kids are murderers,” Simmers said. “We don’t have anywhere where we can rehabilitate these kids.”
Simmers said that while SAYS would probably not be taking any of Louisiana’s juvenile offenders anytime soon, he was thankful that they were able to help them out before.
“It’s null and void, I’m sure,” he said. “We’re blessed to have them take our kids while it lasted. We’re not upset with them at all. This lies with our state, not theirs.”
Several attempts to reach SAYS by both phone and email were not successful Monday.