JEFFERSON PARISH, La. (WGNO)— Jefferson Parish council members passed a proposal Wednesday that would move inmates to a maximum-security detention center in Monroe and permanently close the Bridge City Center for Youth.

This move comes after several escapes this year and a riot by inmates earlier this month.

“They’re not kids! They’re hardened criminals!”

Similar emotions were conveyed at Wednesday morning’s council meeting as people who live in and near Bridge City, as well as council members, called for the closing of the Bridge City juvenile detention center.

“I mean, I don’t know what is of a more grave concern than prison breakouts,” said District 4 Councilman Dominick Impastato.

Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice Deputy Secretary William Sommers says there is now additional staffing at the juvenile detention center since the last escape, but that most of the escapes have happened because of maintenance issues.

Those who live in the nearby neighborhood say it’s a public safety issue.

“I hear him talking about the maintenance of the facility… What about once they get out of the facility? There’s nothing stopping them from coming into our community,” said a man who lives near the center.

Those who attended the meeting say the center has been problematic for decades.

“But at the same time, I had teachers when I was in elementary school, who worked part-time there, and there was a guy who took a 2×4 to the face,” said Dennis Guidry with the Nine Mile Point Civic Association.

The proposal, along with the public’s comments, will be sent to Governor John Bel Edwards for a final decision.

Despite the proposal, Sommers says his work to improve the facility will continue.

“We want to be good neighbors,” said Sommers while assessing the detention center after the meeting. “We want to make sure we fix this place in a manner that it should be, and that’s what we’re trying to do every single day.”

According to Sommers, moving the violent offender juveniles to a maximum-security detention center in Monroe is also part of their improvement plan. However, there is no timeline because the facility is still being built, he says.