On Sept. 15, this newspaper reprinted an article originally reported in The Illuminator, bringing to light the fact that city officials moved 36 teenagers from New Orleans’ juvenile jail to Elayn Hunt Correctional Center — an adult prison — during Hurricane Ida. As an attorney and a mother, I know that the city’s evacuation of children to an adult lock-up is not only illegal — it’s a parent’s worst nightmare.
The Louisiana Children’s Code clearly states that “No child subject to the jurisdiction of the juvenile court shall be held in an adult jail or lockup.” And for good reason. Adult prison is no place for a child. For days, these children were held in deplorable conditions, unable to contact their families. As a parent, I cannot imagine not knowing where my child was during one of the worst storms to ever hit Louisiana.
Hurricane season is not over. We need assurances that the city is going to act quickly to put in place an evacuation plan that keeps our kids safe, ensures continued communication with families, and complies with all state and federal laws. We should expect nothing less for the children and families of New Orleans.
It’s been 16 years since children at the New Orleans juvenile jail were evacuated to Orleans Parish Prison during Hurricane Katrina — a disastrous plan no one would ever replicate. The city had far too long to come up with something better and failed. There is no more time to waste.
executive director, Louisiana ACLU