Proposed bill could reduce incarcerated children across state

Proposed bill could reduce incarcerated children across state

RED RIVER PARISH, La. (KSLA) - A proposed bill swiftly making its way through the State Legislature could soon reduce the number of juveniles placed in youth detention centers across Louisiana.

The reason behind the inception of this bill, however, is one Siarah Hall wishes never occurred. On February 9, 2019, her brother, 13-Year-Old Solan Peterson took his life at the Ware Youth Center in Red River Parish. His death took place less than 72 hours after a 17-year-old killed himself.

“It’s the sort of anger you know is useless because no matter how angry you get, no matter what you do, you can’t bring him back,” Hall said.

Both boys hanged themselves in their cells.

A KSLA investigation uncovered documents from a state audit of Ware Youth Center, which discovered a number of infractions at the juvenile detention center.

Hall and her brother grew up together with five siblings in the foster care system.

“I couldn’t fathom him doing something bad enough to be in that situation in the first place,” Hall said. “After being adopted, I’ve never thought, ‘are my siblings alive?’"

“For the first few years of his life, we lived with him and played a large role taking care of him," Hall said. “He was a very good student, he was extremely intelligent. He was sort of ingenious in a way.”

But, Solan was moved from family to family in foster care.

“For a long time, we had no idea where he was,” Hall said. “We were worried about his safety, who he was with.”

Ultimately, Hall learned her brother attended Haughton Middle School, was diagnosed with ADHD and was being treated for anxiety.

“He had no history of violent crimes or anything like that,” Hall said.

Though, Hall said her brother made one poor choice, which she believes lead him to be incarcerated at the Ware Youth Center — Solan lit a roll of toilet paper on fire in a school bathroom.

“The crime he committed was not malicious or violent,” Hall said. “I was absolutely shocked and angry and confused as to why he was placed there.”

In the wake of Solan’s death, HB 158 — also known as Solan’s Law — was proposed to decrease the chances a juvenile is incarcerated.

“I think this is a very appropriate measure that needs to be done,” Hall said. “If this can prevent another child from their taking their life, or even having long-term traumas from being incarcerated, then should should without a doubt be implemented.”

The bill was unanimously approved by the House and will be introduced in the Senate.

“His legacy will remain alive,” Hall said.

Meanwhile, the Red River Parish Sheriff’s office has completed its investigation into the Ware Youth Center following the two deaths.

KSLA is still waiting to hear back from Red River Parish District Attorney Julie Jones on whether charges will be filed against the detention center.

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