LA Closes Notorious Camp J at Angola Prison

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After more than 40 years as one of the most restrictive housing units within Louisiana’s Angola prison, corrections officials closed Camp J, which at its peak confined more than 400 prisoners in solitary cells for more than 23 hours a day, the Advocate reports. Prison officials cited the decades-old facility and its infrastructure for the closure, which they say created safety issues after years of deterioration. “The closure of Camp J is a positive step for Angola,” said Mercedes Montagnes of the New Orleans-based Promise of Justice Initiative, which has frequently worked on prison condition cases at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. “Camp J, which was more akin to a dungeon, was used to house individuals who were more in need of mental health treatment than disciplinary action.”

Corrections Secretary James LeBlanc said the closure aligned with the department’s goal to improve segregated housing. The Louisiana Department of Corrections partnered in 2016 with the Vera Institute of Justice to work on a initiative known as Safe Alternatives to Segregation aimed at reducing the use of solitary confinement around the nation. “In lieu of everything else we’re doing in the department to restructure restrictive housing, and to have something like (Camp J) sitting there, just felt like we needed to do something about it,” LeBlanc said. “It’s just not a good place to be, the environment itself is somewhat depressing.” Vera researchers expect to release recommendations this summer for how Louisiana can improve its segregated housing across all state prison facilities. “I think there’s a genuine desire to do things differently,” said Vera’s David Cloud. “The closure of that space is a huge symbolic victory just because of what it was. … It was a microcosm of a lot of things that are wrong.”

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