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Swanson to transfer inmates, implement panic buttons after recent crimes



MONROE, La. – Changes are in the works for the Swanson Correctional Center in Monroe. It follows a long history of problems, such as a recent guard attack and inmate escapes.

Monroe NAACP president Ambrose Douzert said Governor John Bel Edwards has been briefed about the incident. Members of the Monroe/Ouachita Chapter of the NAACP held a news conference on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, to address their longtime concerns with the facility.

“We want to make it better. And if we are taxpayers, help us to make it better,” said Monroe NAACP branch president and Pastor Ambrose Douzert.

Pastor Douzert said former juvenile justice workers complained about a worker shortage and major issues within the Office of Juvenile Justice administration, saying Swanson management is inadequate. The NAACP now plans to meet with everyone from neighbors to the governor to do something about it.

“They ought to be frightened because of the fact that one of their own is injured. the administration ought to be really concerned that a person reports to work at say at 6 o’clock and at 10 o’clock some paramedic gotta take them for some emergency treatment. they ought to be concerned. they’re the representatives, so we say we’re going to work with you. we want to sit down at the table and have a talk,” Douzert.

Office of Juvenile Justice Executive Management Adviser Beth Touchet-Morgan said a new era is being ushered in from the inside out.

“We identified some youth that do not need to be at this facility anymore, so we are moving some youth,” said Touchet-Morgan.

In addition to transferring inmates, management is looking to give staff devices they can use in an emergency.

“That will be in the form of duress buttons and different items that they will be carrying on their person so that we can have backup,” the spokesperson said.

Touchet-Morgan said they’re partnering with local law enforcement indefinitely for a second line of defense.

“To have some security details on the outside of the fence for the first time. So you’ll be seeing in the coming days the presence of Monroe Police Department outside of the fence.”

Physical enhancements to the fence are underway.

“We feel like a lot of these concerns will be addressed when we get our new facility open. We’ll be breaking ground on that new facility in the next 1 to 2 months, looking to get it built as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson explained.

The new facility will be downsized: fewer youth and buildings.

“What that means is that your staff response time is cut short. It will have new security equipment, cameras and such, that are really hard to enable in a large old facility. You can see this building we’re in is over 100 years old,” Touchet-Morgan said.

However, the NAACP said a new facility won’t solve old problems. The organization is calling attention to complaints of inadequate management, understaffed facilities, and unsafe working conditions. On May 13, 2021, the NAACP plans to meet with the Office of Juvenile Justice.

“Those persons who were once employed by the facilities. They were made to feel that they were the problem, not an answer to the problem.”

The spokesperson for Swanson acknowledges the challenges the facility faces. She said it’ll take more staff, money, and fewer inmates to fix the problems.