BOSSIER PARISH, La (KMSS/KTAL) – A bill closing in on final passage in the Louisiana legislature that would give judges the option to consider alternatives to detention centers for juvenile offenders is a bittersweet victory for the family of a Haughton boy who committed suicide while in custody.
Robin Simmons says she will never forget the call she got from her daughter on February 9 to tell her that her 13-year-old grandson had taken his own life.
”She was just screaming. He hung himself, he hung himself. And I’m like what? She just kept screaming he hung himself. It’s a call I will never forget. It’s forever etched in my mind.”
Solan Peterson’s death inspired a bill to keep what happened to him from happening to other children with a past like his. Although Solan was a creative and athletic child, Simmons says he had a troubled past. “As a child, he had been neglected, abandoned and abused,” said Simmons. Solan had been in and out of foster care since he was six-months-old. He was adopted by Simmons’ daughter when he was seven.
“He was diagnosed with ADHD. He was also visiting a behavioral therapist as well,” said Simmons. He was diagnosed with PTSD and Oppositional Defiant Disorder.
Solan was arrested at Haughton Middle School for setting a fire in a bathroom.
“The pediatrician made the suggestion that he be hospitalized so that he could have a complete medical evaluation,” said Simmons. Instead, he was taken to Ware Detention Center, where he remained for nine days before taking his life. Another teen took his life 72 hours before Solan. Simmons had a lot of questions after reading a report about what happened. “The report says that he had questions about the suicide.”
The state investigated both deaths and found the facility did not perform the required mental health assessments. They also failed to check on the inmates every 15 minutes. The state also found other violations at the detention center.
Now, House Bill 158 has been drafted in Solan’s name, giving judges a screening tool for juvenile offenders to decide if alternatives to detention centers should be considered. “Not one person during this process asked anything about Solan and his life. If they had I feel like the decision to not put him there would have been the decision that would have been made,” said Simmons.
Solan’s Law is on the agenda for final passage Sunday in the Louisiana Senate.