Case Update: DOJ Files Statement of Interest Re. Youth at Angola

Aug. 10, 2023

Entrance to the Louisiana State Penitentiary in 2009.  Brick sign reads "Louisiana State Penitentiary Burl Cain, Warden."  Behind the sign, there is an entrance gate with a stop sign.

On July 28, 2023, the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice filed a statement of interest in Smith v. Edwards, a lawsuit challenging the incarceration of children in the former death row of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, commonly known as Angola. The statement addressed the rights of youth in the juvenile justice system and the serious and lasting harm that the alleged conditions of confinement could cause.  

The statement drew attention to the harmful conditions of confinement and periods of prolonged isolation, noting that such isolation and other conditions could cause irreparable harm. Among other things, the DOJ highlighted plaintiffs’ allegations that there were no teachers to provide youth instruction, there was inadequate access to recreation and exercise, excessive heat, a lack of adequate ventilation, and inadequate access to safe drinking water. The DOJ’s statement explained that many of the youth incarcerated at Angola likely had a history of trauma, and these conditions were highly likely to cause psychological harm and add to their suffering.  The full statement is available on the Clearinghouse here.