Amaya’s journey to freedom from one of Louisiana’s most infamous youth prisons

We first met “Amaya” in 2020 as a sophomore in high school after she was arrested for her involvement in a high-profile carjacking. By the time LCCR was assigned her case, she had already been sentenced to 10 years in juvenile prison.  

Amaya was shipped to the Ware Youth Center, a unique, legislatively created government facility that operates like a private prison. For decades, it was the entity Louisiana’s Office of Juvenile Justice contracted with to house incarcerated girls. For just as long, it’s been rampant with reports of abuse and teen suicide.

Conditions at Ware were so bad that in October 2022, The New York Times released an exposé on Ware that detailed firsthand accounts of physical violence, sexual assault, and psychological torment. The documentary “8 Days at Ware” further backed up this report with harrowing testimonials from former inmates and staff.

Amaya’s experiences at Ware mirrored similar tales of abuse. Guards would get violent with her when even the slightest conflicts arose. She was denied recreation time in favor of lockdown. She was also frequently deprived access to educational services. Amaya is a smart girl and wanted to stay on track in school so she could graduate on time. But because of the rampant disorganization and discord at Ware, this was impossible for her.

Our team knew that, for Amaya’s safety and well-being, she needed to get out of Ware. For months, we filed numerous motions to facilitate her release. None were granted.

It wasn’t until the Times investigation came out that the court finally took our concerns seriously. The judge in Amaya’s case moved to release her. In fact, the judge moved to transfer or release all the children they had sentenced to Ware.

Amaya was released in the fall of last year. Her LCCR team immediately set to work establishing a reentry plan for her. We helped her enroll in a HiSet program so she could earn her high school equivalency degree. Frustratingly, she didn’t receive any credit for the school she completed while at Ware – a common issue plaguing children who have been incarcerated by the state.

We then helped Amaya find employment – she’s now working at a business in the French Quarter. We also helped connect her with a local mentorship program, which has helped provide her with greater guidance and support since her release.

Recently, Amaya began classes in a community college computer science program – fulfilling the last condition her judge set for case closure. Now on her way toward an advanced degree, her judge closed her case and she’s finally able to leave the legal system behind for good.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Frustratingly, the extensive controversies at Ware weren’t enough to keep Louisiana Governor Jeff Landry from recently naming Kenny Loftin, that facility’s co-founder and long-serving former director, as the new Deputy Secretary of Louisiana’s Office of Juvenile Justice. Now instead of just one facility, Mr. Loftin will be in charge of the state’s entire youth prison system. We can only hope that the rampant abuse that occurred under his watch will not be repeated in his new role.

Posted by Cadence Neenanon February 6, 2024and categorized as Awards, Client Story, Events, Featured, News, Reports, Uncategorized