With the Assumption Parish Youth Detention Center in Napoleonville set to close Tuesday, the search continues by the more than 20 agencies that used the center to find new housing for young offenders ages 10 to 16.
One sheriff, Ascension Parish’s Jeff Wiley, also has begun exploring with other area officials the possibility of another, smaller facility in the future to house juveniles.
“We’re going to miss it,” Wiley said of the youth detention center that’s shutting its doors in neighboring Assumption Parish. “It was very convenient.”
The new Assumption Parish sheriff, Leland Falcon, who took office this month, attempted to keep the financially beleaguered detention center open by seeking contracts from the more than 20 agencies regularly using the center, for a total of 32 beds paid for throughout the year at $197.25 per bed per day.
Two parishes, Ascension and St. Charles, that already had contracts with the center were joined in recent weeks by St. James, West Baton Rouge and St. John the Baptist parishes, all of which also signed contracts with the center, but the number of guaranteed beds wasn’t enough to keep the facility afloat, Falcon said in April.
Falcon said last week the inmate population at the center had dropped in recent weeks from close to 20 youth to eight, as agencies across southeast Louisiana came to transfer the juveniles from the agencies’ jurisdictions to new housing elsewhere.
All juveniles will be transferred to new centers by Tuesday, Falcon said.
“It’s going well; things are moving along,” Falcon said.
“Hopefully, we’ll find a use for the facility,” he said of the parish-owned detention center that opened in 2013 on Parish Complex Road in Napoleonville.
Falcon said Assumption Parish is looking into several options in other parishes for housing for its juvenile offenders.
Juvenile detention centers house youth after they have been arrested. Within 72 hours, the juveniles must have a hearing before a judge, the district attorney and their defense attorney, and a decision is made on whether the youth will stay at the center or be released to their parents until another court hearing.
Wiley said he and other Ascension Parish officials have been in contact with the St. Bernard Parish Juvenile Detention Center in Chalmette and the Terrebonne Parish Juvenile Detention Center in Houma, both about 90 minutes from Ascension Parish, as alternatives.
But, he said, he’s begun talking to officials in the parishes of the 23rd Judicial District — Assumption and St. James, along with Ascension — about the possibility of one day having a juvenile center closer to home to serve the district.
“I don’t think we’re real prudent if we don’t start exploring our own destiny,” Wiley said.
Daily costs of housing a juvenile grow by travel costs as well, with deputies having to drive the youth to and from court.
St. James Parish also is looking at the juvenile detention center in Chalmette as an option.
“We’re trying to work out accommodations with St. Bernard Parish at this time,” Maj. Sidney Berthelot, of the St. James Parish Sheriff’s Office, said on Friday.
There are more than a dozen youth detention centers in the state and probably a good number of them have gotten calls in recent weeks after the announcement last month of the Assumption Parish center’s closing.
“I’ve gotten calls from Ascension Parish-area law enforcement agencies and agencies from surrounding areas requesting bed space, but unfortunately, I’ve had to deny that,” said Joseph Dominick, director of the Florida Parishes Juvenile Detention Center near Covington.
Supported by a millage tax in the parishes of Livingston, St. Helena, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa and Washington, “our agency only provides juvenile detention serves for the five parishes we serve,” Dominick said.