The Livingston Parish Detention Center has run out of beds, and authorities have shipped inmates to another jail in Catahoula Parish.
The Sheriff’s Office sent 25 inmates out last week, and it isn’t clear when the Livingston jail will be able to free up enough space to house its entire population, said Sheriff Jason Ard. In the fall, the jail was forced to relocate 17 inmates to Richland Parish for about two months.
Jails charge $24.39 per day to house each out-of-parish inmate, said Lori Steele, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office. Therefore, the cost to house 25 inmates would run about $18,300 per month, paid by the Parish Council.
Paying to house inmates in another parish was just one jail expense discussed at a recent meeting of the parish’s finance committee. The sheriff also asked the council to purchase a new camera system expected to cost between $80,000 and $100,000 to replace obsolete equipment. Jail staff are having trouble keeping all the cameras in working order, Ard said.
To address the issue of crowding, the Sheriff’s Office is trying to push smaller cases like theft or minor drug possession through the system faster, said Chance Parent, chairman of the Parish Council and its finance committee. Ard said his office is working with judges and inmates who intend to plead guilty and may be eligible for probation to free up more space.
“I know that’s done for traffic offenses. … They do work those pretty well,” District Attorney Scott Perrilloux said.
Those inmates usually make it into court four or five days after being booked, and a person in jail for something like first-offense theft can usually appear within a few weeks, which judges generally view as adequate jail time, Perrilloux said.
The jail, which opened in 2008, has room for about 678 inmates and averages 129 bookings per week.
The Sheriff’s Office also is housing about 150 inmates from the state. The inmates each bring in $24.39 per day, though the state pays the Sheriff’s Office to hold them, rather than the Parish Council.
“We don’t have enough beds,” Ard said. “I can’t be overpopulated. We’ve got too many criminals.”
When the jail was being planned, the Sheriff’s Office asked for enough room to hold 1,000 inmates, but the Parish Council only approved a site large enough to house the current population without leaving room for growth, the sheriff said.
“It wasn’t built big enough. … We’re just a fast-growing parish,” Ard said. “I’m not mad at (the council). That’s what they were able to do.”
Parent said there are no plans to expand the main jail site, but a new building in Walker is expected to ease the burden.
The Sheriff’s Office will gain about 75 beds when a new site for work-release inmates opens. Originally intended to be completed by early summer, bad weather pushed back construction, and it will now likely open sometime in August or September, Ard said.
Ard hopes the current crop of Catahoula-held inmates will be back well before then.
“You don’t know day to day. … (The number of inmates) changes so quickly,” Parent said when asked when the 25 would return or if the parish would have to relocate more before they get back.
The parish also is aiming to improve the jail by purchasing new cameras to replace old units that are no longer in production and thus difficult to repair. Parent said in a committee meeting that deputies were cannibalizing some units to fix others.
The matter of security came to a head recently when a deputy was injured after being attacked by an inmate. Ard said the incident was caught on camera, alerting other staff who were able to step in, but it underlined the need for the equipment.
“That’s why those cameras are important. … We can’t afford not to have an efficient camera system,” he said.
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