The results of the two-week trial period of round-the-clock operations at the Baton Rouge City Jail were released Friday, showing more than $191,000 in additional revenue and a surge in outstanding warrants cleared.
Baton Rouge Constable Reginald Brown, whose office is charged with running the jail, met with parish officials Friday to present the results and the more than $2.2 million projected price tag for turning the jail into a full-time, parish-wide misdemeanor facility.
“The cost is less than what I expected, and it’s necessary,” Brown said. “It’s the only way you’re going to reduce outstanding warrants and help officers enforce crime fighting. If it’s broke — fix it. Obviously in misdemeanor crimes, the system’s broken.”
Parish law enforcement officials began the 24-hour-a-day, seven days-a-week operation July 22 and ended the trial Aug. 5. The jail closes at 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and is not open on weekends.
The extended hours allowed authorities to arrest people with outstanding warrants — with several agencies conducting roundups — as well as jail those arrested for new offenses.
Parishwide agencies booked 348 prisoners into the jail, clearing more than 772 warrants, results show.
At least 65 percent of those booked into the City Jail bonded out without having to be transported to Parish Prison, Brown said. Another 15 percent were able to bond out after being transported.
The threat of spending upward of 36 hours in city jail also pushed hundreds of people to voluntarily clear their outstanding warrants for a total of 5,131 recalled warrants, data showed.
“That would not have happened if there wasn’t a facility available,” Brown said. “This allowed us to impact our community and say, crimes that are committed will be punished.”
Revenue generated from fines, fees and bonds in the Criminal/Traffic Division for the two-week period totaled $498,294, but officials said about $191,000 of that could be directly attributed to the extended hours.
The projected cost of turning the jail into a full-time facility is $2.2 million and included costs for hiring a warden to oversee the operation, 27 deputies to run the jail and staff a warrant division, as well as five supervisors, Brown said.
Meals and equipment were also factored into the total cost.
Mayor Pro Tem Mike Walker, who was given the report Friday, said after considering all of the costs and benefits of the trial period, extending the jail’s hours “can and should be done.”
“We cannot allow the jail to stay closed,” Walker said. “The effect of it not being open is obvious. There are no lines at the courthouse today, because the criminals know the jail’s closed and the pressure is off.”
Law enforcement officials will present a full report on the trial period findings to the Metro Council on Aug. 24.
With the parish’s current budget shortfalls, Walker said, there is no clear-cut way to pay the additional costs of the operation that aren’t covered by revenue generated from the extended hours.
“It can produce almost enough, if not enough, revenues to pay for itself,” Walker said. “We have to develop the mindset that it can be done, against all roadblocks. Face it folks, crimefighting is the most important thing.”
The City Jail can house 150 people, Brown said, and would significantly reduce overcrowding at the Parish Prison and the need to transport inmates to prisons outside of the parish, saving additional money.
Capt. John Lawton, chief of operations at the Constable’s Office, said public safety — not money — is the most important issue involved in the question of whether to change the jail’s operation.
“If you’re a victim, wouldn’t you rather someone is locked up in jail instead of given a piece of paper that says, don’t do that again,” Lawton said. “It brings so much more accountability to the system.”
With overcrowding at the Parish Prison, Brown said, many people given a misdemeanor summons — for crimes ranging from prostitution to illegal carrying of a weapon — face no consequences.
“They’ll tell the officers, ‘Don’t give me that piece of paper, because that’s all it is,’ ” Brown said. “They’ll ball it up and throw it away right in front of the officers because they know there’s no place for the officer to take them.
“They need to understand that a summons is not a get-out-of-jail free card,” Brown said.