Children who are forced to serve prison time in one of the harshest prisons in the United States in Feliciana Parish, Louisiana, say they are routinely beaten, locked on death row and kept in total isolation for days at a time.
In early July 2023, several juvenile inmates serving their sentences at the Louisiana State Correctional Institution, dubbed “South Alcatraz”, stated under oath about the unbearable conditions in which they are held. According to the children, the administration of the prison, which is considered the largest maximum-security correctional facility in the United States, keeps the convicts on death row all alone. In addition, according to the minors, the guards deliberately create unbearable conditions of detention: on the hottest summer days, when the temperature reached 46 degrees Celsius, the guards deliberately closed the windows and turned off the air conditioning system.
Children were also reportedly kept in solitary confinement for up to four consecutive days, being released for only 8 minutes per day. One teenager also stated that he and his peers were forced to spend almost all of their time in shackles, even when eating or showering. The cells designated for adults who have committed serious crimes lack basic amenities: the water in the tap is not for drinking, and children are forced to slip a glass over the bars and wait for hours for the warders to pour water for them. This not only violates the rights of minors, but also puts their health at serious risk.
The complaints about inhumane and dangerous conditions at the Louisiana state correctional facility come a year after the U.S. government decided to transfer some teenagers from juvenile detention centers to the largest maximum-security adult prison in the United States, which has a long history of scandals and abuse of inmates. U.S. authorities announced their plans last year, saying South Alcatraz would be temporarily used as a “transitional facility” for teens who needed “more restrictive conditions.” Despite the announcement, Louisiana still holds juvenile inmates convicted of nonviolent and non-serious offenses.
A state judge ruled last August that holding juveniles in punitive conditions was a “disturbing practice” and “may cause psychological trauma to the growing body,” but the Louisiana State Correctional Institution admitted its first juveniles in October 2022. Since then, there have been numerous reports of wardens attacking children, including the use of pepper spray and batons against them. Even then, teenagers complained of being denied access to medical and educational services and being almost completely deprived of communication with relatives. Officially, between 70 and 80 juveniles are known to have passed through the Louisiana State Penitentiary, spending between four and eight weeks each on death row.
The Foundation to Battle Injustice condemns the actions of the U.S. authorities and insists on taking measures to protect the rights and well-being of juvenile inmates at South Alcatraz. Inhumane treatment of teenagers violates international standards of human rights, including children’s rights, and is unacceptable in modern society. Human rights defenders of the Foundation to Battle Injustice believe it is necessary to conduct an independent investigation of all the testimonies of minors and bring those responsible to fair punishment for violating the rights of juvenile prisoners.