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Articles by Grace Toohey

Angola Closes its Notorious Camp J, “A Microcosm of a Lot of Things That are Wrong”

by Grace Toohey, The Advocate

After more than 40 years as one of the most restrictive housing units within Louisiana’s Angola prison, corrections officials have closed Camp J – which at its peak confined more than 400 prisoners being disciplined in solitary cells for more than 23 hours a day.

While prison officials primarily cited the decades-old facility and its infrastructure for the closure, which they say had created safety issues after years of deterioration, advocates called the move a much-needed end to extremely detrimental conditions.

“The closure of Camp J is a positive step for Angola,” said Mercedes Montagnes, executive director of the New Orleans-based Promise of Justice Initiative, which has frequently worked on cases surrounding prison conditions at the 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 that while the closure made sense logistically, it also aligned with the department’s goal to improve segregated housing. The Louisiana Department of Corrections partnered in late 2016 with the Vera Institute of Justice, a national organization dedicated to improving the ...