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FROM: The Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Picture still muddled at corrections center
The Daily Advertiser Editorial Board


April 24, 2003


A juvenile prison with a history of violence.

We Suggest:

Stories about today's situation conflict sharply.

According to the warden, Louisiana's juvenile prison at Tallulah is a safe facility where all teenage inmates are well-protected. Hyam F. Guyton Jr., Tallulah’s warden since 2001, told a court hearing that he is a father figure and problem solver who works to rehabilitate inmates and help those whose families have broken down. He says no juvenile has ever told him he feels unsafe.

By contrast, two inmates who served time at the facility testified earlier that guards supplied prisoners with cigarettes, drugs and sex, and routinely instigated fist fights that left teens with broken jaws, noses and teeth.

The hearing is being held before Juvenile Court Judge Mark Doherty, who already has said conditions there are unconstitutional and has ordered five inmates removed because rampant violence put their lives at risk. The hearing was called because the state, which has consistently denied allegations of violence, appealed Doherty's order.

Perhaps the most credible party in the ongoing controversy is the Juvenile Justice Commission. That body contends the entire juvenile justice system is underfunded, lacks effective treatment options, and puts children guilty of property crimes or minor drug offenses in the company of those who are violent and dangerous.

The commission may also have the most credible solution. It recommends taking kids away from the prison department and out of prisons that harden without reforming. Another recommendation is that the state finally shift its focus from punishment to prevention.

This may be the only way that Louisiana will solve the problems at juvenile prisons.



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