Head of Office of Juvenile Justice resigns

The head of Louisiana’s Office of Juvenile Justice (OJJ) resigned on Nov. 18.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced in a news release he had accepted the resignation of Deputy Secretary for Youth Services Williams Sommers, who had led the agency since 2020.

Before joining the OJJ, Sommers spent over 30 years at the Calcasieu Parish Office of Juvenile Justice and worked in law enforcement in Southwest Louisiana.

Williams Sommer

“I am grateful to Bill for his service to our state,” Edwards said. “He joined us during one of the most difficult periods in Louisiana’s history, leading OJJ through the COVID-19 pandemic and devastating natural disasters. Bill has also worked diligently to address the recent challenges within OJJ.  Juvenile Justice work is challenging in the best of times, and OJJ’s work was made even harder by the pandemic. At the same time we were seeing increases in young people entering the juvenile justice system, there were unprecedented challenges in hiring and retaining of staff for juvenile justice agencies across the country. These challenges have contributed to several unfortunate incidents in Louisiana. Bill spent the majority of his career working with troubled youth and supporting their successful rehabilitation. It is Bill’s passion and he has been devoted to public service, often at great personal sacrifice to himself and his family. Now, after nearly 36 years of service, I know Bill is looking forward to spending some well-deserved time with his wife, children and grandchildren. I wish him the best.”

Edwards named OJJ Assistant Secretary Curtis Nelson was named acting deputy secretary. Nelson joined the OJJ earlier this year after serving as a deputy judicial administrator for the Louisiana Supreme Court Division of Children and Families.

Gov. Edwards has named OJJ Assistant Secretary Otha “Curtis” Nelson as interim deputy secretary.  Nelson joined the agency earlier this year after serving as deputy judicial administrator for the Louisiana Supreme Court Division of Children and Families. He has more than 30 years of knowledge and experience working with children and families including as an adolescent mental health technician in mental health settings, a court appointed special advocate, a family attorney for children in need of care and delinquency proceedings, and juvenile prosecutor for the 19th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

“I am thankful to Gov. Edwards for the opportunity to continue to work for the Office of Juvenile Justice in this new role,” said Nelson. “William Sommers is a friend and colleague who has done so much great work in the juvenile justice system over the last thirty plus years. In the two years Mr. Sommers was with OJJ, he was able to lay a foundation that will allow the Office of Juvenile Justice to continue to make positive changes in the lives of our system-involved youth. We all thank him for his hard work.”

After months of contention, On Oct. 19, the OJJ completed the first phase of youth transfers to the temporary youth facility at Angola.

Disturbances at the Bridge City Center for Youth led OJJ to take measures to stabilize conditions at that facility.

Four youths from Acadiana Center for Youth at St. Martinville and four from Swanson Center for Youth at Monroe were moved to the temporary West Feliciana Center for Youth facility at Angola for a total of eight who were moved to the facility.

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