A New York Times article published on October 30 detailed allegations that guards in the facility raped incarcerated youth, did not respond appropriately to suicide attempts and behaved in ways that indicated they did not fear consequences.
The report claims that there were at least 64 suicide attempts at Ware in 2019 and 2020, that number is higher than any other facility in the state.
On Tuesday, Gov. Edwards announced his intent to send a formal letter requesting that the Louisiana State Inspector General investigate the allegations and conditions at the Ware Youth Center.
Staci Scott is the Executive Director of the Ware Youth Center. She says she welcomes the investigation and is looking forward to the Inspector General’s findings.
Scott, who has worked at the center for over two decades, said she was shocked by the allegations.
“Shock, you know I’ve been here for 26 years, so I would say shock, a lot of shock,” Scott said. “We just look forward to the State Inspector General’s Office being here. Us being able to share our records show what we do here. We’re an open book, and we just want to share that and get everything cleared up.”
Bridget Peterson was not shocked by the recent allegations.
Peterson’s son Solan Peterson killed himself in the facility two weeks after his thirteenth birthday.
Peterson was brought to Ware on Friday, February 1 after Haughton Middle School officials called police claiming that he set a roll of toilet paper on fire in the boys restroom.
According to Peterson, she and her son’s doctor tried to get police to take him for mental health evaluation rather than a detention center. However, he was brought to Ware where he died just a few days later.
Peterson said she visited the facility to bring her son’s medication to the detention center Tuesday, just days after he was brought to Ware and were told he was in solitary. They were allowed to visit with him behind a glass window that showed the tiny cell that her son was held in.
“I asked the guards why he was in here, is this normal? They’re like he got trouble at the facility so they put him in solitary confinement and that he was going to be released – they said 24 hours so that would have been Tuesday evening, Wednesday morning because they don’t wake sleeping kids,” Peterson said. “So we were expecting him to be moved back to a normal cell that Wednesday.”
Peterson said they expected their son to call on Saturday – that call never came. Peterson said not hearing from her son made her very uncomfortable and she planned to call the center on Sunday to check in and make sure everything was okay.
Around 2 a.m. on Sunday, February 10, Peterson received the call that her son was dead and being transported to LSU Health Shreveport for an autopsy from a local hospital in Coushatta.
“We cared about our son. We would have done anything to provide him the help that he needed. Becasue the last three and a half years have been pure hell for us,” Peterson said.
In 2019, Governor John Bel Edwards signed Act 147 or “Solan’s Law,” which orders law enforcement to provide better evaluation of juvenile offenses to determine what level of detention if any is needed following arrest.
The Inspector General’s said the OIG will not comment further on the matter and will not announce when they receive the governor’s request letter.