For Immediate Release: Contact: Laura Jones, 202-425-4659
April 14, 2003 Xochitl Bervera, 504-522-5437
Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children Condemn Tallulah for "Crimes Against Children;"
Welcome Judge's Decision to Put Prison "On Trial"
Group Marched Around Mock Tallulah
"Until the Walls Came A' Tumblin' Down"
New Orleans, LA--Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) gathered outside of the juvenile courthouse today to protest the notoriously abusive and violent conditions in the Tallulah Correctional Facility ("Tallulah"), and to demand justice for all Louisiana children. FFLIC teamed up with the Justice for Youth Campaign to stage a "Tallulah on Trial" action to show that Tallulah is guilty of violating children's basic human rights. The action coincides with the first day of Judge Mark Doherty's hearing on the conditions at Tallulah.
During the protest, formerly incarcerated youth, parents of youth testifying at the hearing, ministers, and others spoke, sang, chanted and prayed. In the spirit of Jericho, participants marched seven times around a mock Tallulah until its walls literally came tumbling down.
"We're marching around this model of Tallulah because, like Jericho, it is an obstacle to justice; it is corrupt and irredeemable and needs to be brought down," said New Orleans FFLIC chairperson Avis Brock. "After all these years, private businessmen profit off of children's abuse. The people of Louisiana are coming together to say we won't take it any more: the walls of Tallulah must fall so that our youth can receive the help and treatment they need. The legislature needs to vote to close Tallulah now."
The action on the courthouse steps was timed to highlight Judge Doherty's hearing to determine if conditions at Tallulah violate children's human rights. Judge Doherty heard from youth formerly incarcerated at Tallulah today. During the course of the week, he is expected to hear further testimony from wardens, prison staff, an expert on adolescent development, a juvenile justice expert and others.
"Tallulah was an awful place for my grandson, and should be shut down" said Ms. Willeta Collins, the grandmother of a youth who testified at the hearing. "My grandson needed mental health treatment, but instead he got locked up in Tallulah where he got his jaw broke while guards watched. That place is no place for any kid."
The action also kicked off "Youth Justice Faith Action Week," where FFLIC members are calling on churches, congregations, parishes, ministers and people of faith to call for love, justice and another chance for Louisiana's troubled children. Churches throughout the state are signing on to support the campaign to close Tallulah, and to divert the money saved into community based programs that are more effective at educating, treating and rehabilitating youth.
"Forgive us God for not being more attentive to [children's] needs," said Rev. Marvin P. George, a Reverend with the New Orleans Perfect Love World Revival Church. "Forgive us for meeting their youthful mistakes with adult penalties absent our love and understanding. Now enable us to find creative solutions to the problems that challenge, plague and victimize our children. Enable us to tell more people about the urgent need to reform our juvenile justice system, improve our educational system, and revitalize our communities."
The coalition has more actions planned throughout the week to continue the effort to keep "Tallulah on Trial" for its abuse of children. To find out about the actions, or to inquire about attending the hearings, contact Laura Jones at 202-425-4659 or Xochitl Bervera at 504-522-5437.