BRIDGE CITY, La. — There are now calls for the Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice to close the beleaguered Bridge City Center for Youth.
This comes one day after another inmate escaped the youth correctional facility on the west bank of Jefferson Parish with an attack on a guard.
“They need to be moved out of there,” Sen. Pat Connick, R-Marrero said. “Out of this neighborhood into an area where they are able to be contained and hopefully rehabilitated.”
The Bridge City facility has been called the Angola for children. The Angola State Penitentiary is where the state houses its most violent offenders.
"Because it’s a juvenile Angola, they need to go someplace like that, Angola and be housed there with guards who have guns and weapons and who can defend themselves,” Connick said. “Right now, you have guards with just walkie-talkies.”
Early Sunday morning, a 19-year-old from New Orleans with a troubled criminal history broke out of Bridge City. OJJ would not identify the escapee or tell us why he was housed at Bridge City. WBRZ-TV in Baton Rouge has identified him as Jonathan Sheard Jr.
Sheard also escaped from the same facility last fall and was captured in Lafayette Parish. A total of 15 juveniles have escaped from the facility on River Road since last April.
People who live in the neighborhoods surrounding the prison are frustrated and angry.
“It’s a quiet community, but the residents here are getting fed up with having reports that there are criminals running through their neighborhood,” Dennis Guidry who lives in nearby Nine Mile Point said. “It needs to be shut down.”
Connick says he discussed the possibility of shuttering the Bridge City facility with OJJ Deputy Secretary Bill Sommers.
“If we can’t house them properly and protect the community, we’ve got to find another place to put them,” Connick said. “Not in Bridge City.”
Connick confirms a female guard was roughed up badly during Sunday’s escape. He says some younger inmates and the escapee put a blanket over her head, beat her up. Knocked out a tooth. Then locked her in a bathroom.
“Got her keys and her radio and then they helped each other. The three helped the (19-year-old) over the fence.”
Connick is also floating the possibility of turning Bridge City into a re-entry facility for young people who want to turn around their lives.
Neighbors say anything is better than living next door to violent offenders who keep escaping.
“Having some sort of trade school here certainly beats a correctional facility that the neighborhood has to worry about, especially our wives and kids,” Guidry said.
Right now, the state is building a new 75-bed juvenile jail near Monroe.
Connick is hoping once that facility opens, violent offenders will be moved out of Bridge City.