East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said Monday that landowners are prepared to donate 262 acres in the northwestern part of the parish as a site for a new parish prison and a juvenile justice center.
Gautreaux made the comments at a meeting of a law enforcement and crime prevention committee that is working to establish priorities for a public safety bond issue to present to voters.
He declined to identity the owners of the land, which he said is off U.S. 61, a 5- or 6-minute drive from where the parish’s juvenile service facilities and parish prison are located near Metro Airport.
Mayor-President Kip Holden said he would object to locating a new juvenile court and detention facilities even farther out than they already are.
There already are issues about a lack of public transportation to the airport and it is difficult for lawyers who do most of their work in courts downtown to travel there for juvenile court, said Mark Dumaine, chief administrative officer for District Attorney Hillar Moore III.
But Gautreaux said if the land is offered at no cost, “then it certainly is a big savings to the public.”
The discussion over where to build new juvenile justice facilities came as the committee discussed the Missouri model of providing therapeutic treatment to juvenile offenders in a dormitory setting.
“The Missouri model has been held out as one of the best juvenile reform issues in the country,” Holden told the group. “The focus of the center is to educate rather than incarcerate.”
Moore said he would favor that approach if it were fully funded and implemented, but questioned whether the state is prepared or able to fund the program.
He said after the meeting his main concern is to keep violent juvenile offenders out of the community, then to begin to rehabilitate as many as possible.
In other matters, Moore said the city-parish will apply again next year for a $2.6 million federal grant to fund a local version of the kind of “Ceasefire” programs that have helped reduce youth violence in cities such as Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles.
In the meantime, he said, officials hope to find some local funds to launch the program here.
Such programs have seasoned staff that mediate disputes between gangs or neighborhood groups.
Speaking before the meeting, Moore said city-parish officials learned such grant funds were available this year and put together an application at the last minute.
He said it was a joint effort of the District Attorney’s Office, Mayor’s Office and the LSU School of Social Work.
He said the Mayor’s Office was advised Thursday the application had been rejected.
“They really gave us good reviews on the grant proposal we had, but pointed out some weaknesses,” Moore said. “I think there’s a very good chance of being successful next year.”
The committee also heard from Blake McGehee, chairman of the nonprofit Baton Rouge Area Alcohol & Drug Center, about its long list of people awaiting treatment services and its need for a larger facility.
“We feel like it’s a crisis situation when we talk about 200 to 300 people waiting to get in the door,” he said.
McGehee asked about the possibility of taking over a building occupied by the Planning and Zoning Commission, across the street from the center’s facility at 1819 Florida Blvd., when the city-parish agency eventually relocates.
Holden said there are other drug-treatment providers in the community and the committee shouldn’t get in the middle of their disputes.
He said he had documents he didn’t want to in air in public on the issue. He declined to comment after the meeting, saying the information he had on the issue is confidential.
McGehee said the Baton Rouge Area Alcohol & Drug Center is the only entity in the parish that does both social and medical detoxification.
He said after the meeting the clients are largely indigents who are kept for 3 to 5 days before they are transferred to long-term care.