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La. Ends Private Juvenile Facilities

April 27, 2000

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ A private juvenile prison criticized by federal officials for inhumane conditions will be converted into a lockup for adult convicts, the prison’s owner said Wednesday.

The move marks ``the end of the experimentation with privatization of the juvenile facilities in Louisiana,″ said David Utter, director of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, an inmate advocacy group.

The Jena Juvenile Justice Center opened in December 1998 but was rocked by allegations in a U.S. Justice Department report issued in February that painted a picture of an extremely dangerous environment for inmates.

The state’s only other privately owned juvenile prison in Tallulah was taken over permanently by the state last September after some guards abandoned their posts in an apparent protest over low pay.

Former Gov. Edwin Edwards started the process of privatizing new juvenile prisons, but Gov. Mike Foster declared the experiment a failure because the prisons were dogged by allegations of abuse.

Wackenhut Corrections Corp. made the decision three weeks after the state took over management of Jena amid accusations guards habitually used excessive force.

``We have reluctantly concluded that it would be in everyone’s best interest for Wackenhut to seek an alternative use for the facility,″ said George Zoley, chief executive of the Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.-based company.

The 200 or so inmates at the Jena prison will be transferred to Louisiana’s other four juvenile prisons, said Corrections Secretary Richard Stalder.

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