BATON ROUGE, La. – Legislation that will carry the name of a 13-year-old Haughton boy who took his life in February while incarcerated at Ware Youth Center is a step closer to becoming law.
House Bill 158 – which will become Solan’s Law if passed – received unanimous approve Monday from the House of Representatives. It now goes to the Senate for final consideration.
The bill authored by state Rep. Malinda White provides a screening tool for juveniles who are incarcerated. The goal is to bring consistency in the decision-making judges use to determine if a juvenile offender should be locked up or if alternate means should be considered.
Technical amendments were made to the original legislation after consultation with district attorneys and judges, who are in support of the proposed law, White said.
“Locking up a child is serious decision that should be made carefully with as much information as possible. Most jurisdictions don’t have objective criteria on jailing a child after arrest. This will be screening tool,” White said on the House floor.
The proposed law’s namesake is Solan Peterson. He was jailed on Feb. 1 following his arrest in Bossier Parish for setting fire to a toilet paper dispenser at his school.
Solan -- as well as his six siblings -- was removed from their biological mother at an early age. He bounced around the foster care system until he was adopted. He was suspected but not diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He was also suspected of having Oppositional Defiant Disorder. He was placed on new medication days before his arrest. Despite that, Solan did not receive a psychological evaluation after he arrived at Ware.
His death on Feb. 10 was the second within 72 hours at Ware. The first was 17-year-old Jordan Bachman of Denver.
Both died by hanging. A preliminary investigation shows the Ware guards, who were required to check on the boys every 15 minutes, didn’t do so for over an hour. One of the guards is on paid administrative leave, while the other did not return to work after Solan’s death.
Solan’s sister, Savanah Hall, told KTBS in March Solan should not have been put behind bars. Solan’s psychiatrist reportedly told the judge hearing Solan’s case that he needed to be admitted to a hospital for monitoring and treatment.
Meanwhile, the two deaths are still the subject of an ongoing investigation in Red River Parish. The sheriff’s office completed its report last month and handed it over to District Attorney Julie Jones.
Two weeks ago, Jones asked the sheriff’s office to interview additional people and resubmit the report. Jones will then decide if the investigation should be given to a grand jury to determine if criminal charges are warranted.