A financially struggling detention center in Napoleonville that houses accused juvenile delinquents with pending charges in courts around southeast Louisiana parishes will need to close, as Assumption Parish Sheriff-elect Leland Falcon has been unable to secure the guarantees he says are necessary to keep the facility open.
Falcon this week said he couldn’t get enough other parishes to sign contracts paying for a certain number of beds, whether they are used or not. “We’re beginning the process of an anticipated May 31 closure date,” he said.
Twenty-three agencies in south Louisiana sent juveniles defendants to the center last year, with most of the agencies paying on an as-needed basis.
In recent weeks, Falcon, who was elected last October and will take office in July, had sought annual contracts from the various agencies, which would guarantee that a total of 32 beds at the center be paid for daily, throughout the year.
The deadline to reach the goal was April 20.
While the 40-bed center, which previously had contracts with Ascension and St. Charles parishes, won contracts from three additional parishes — St. James, West Baton Rouge and St. John the Baptist — it wasn’t enough, Falcon said.
Falcon told the agencies about the center’s expected closure in a letter sent late last week.
“Each agency is responsible for the relocation of juveniles currently held in the Assumption Parish Youth Detention Center prior to May 31, 2016,” Falcon wrote.
“It’s a disappointment,” St. Charles Sheriff Greg Champagne said on Thursday.
“We’re just going to have to start looking at options. It’s not something we need every single day, but when you have a certain kind of crime be committed by a juvenile, where do you put them? They cannot be put around any adult inmates,” Champagne said.
Champagne said his agency will be “starting from scratch” in finding the answers for housing juveniles.
Detention centers house juvenile offenders, ages 10 to 16, who are waiting to be adjudicated in juvenile courts. While many arrested youth stay at their homes pending consideration of a juvenile case, judges at times order that a defendant be held at a detention center until trial.
“A lot of agencies were interested but only a percentage came forth with a contract,” said St. James Parish Sheriff Willy Martin.
On Thursday, he said he held on to the hope that some additional agencies would still step up.
“We will certainly be in a dilemma” without the center, Martin said.
“We’re not sure where to go to next. We’re already starting the process of contacting other facilities,” he said.
“If an absolute arrest must be made (of a juvenile), we will obviously find a bed in the state of Louisiana, but we don’t know where that bed will be,” Martin said.
Earlier this month, Falcon said that the center, which opened in June 2013, has been operating at a loss for the past two years and, for the first six months of the 2015-2016 fiscal year, had run up a deficit of about $200,000.
The projected cost for the coming fiscal year, which begins in July, was $2.1 million, he said.
Falcon had sought agreements for 32 “contract beds,” meaning they’d be reserved by an agency for 365 days, regardless of use.
The daily rate for contract beds was proposed at $197.25, up from the previous $130 per day rate.
The daily rate for noncontract beds, also previously set at $130, was raised in Falcon’s proposal to $250.
“It is a dilemma, it’s been a dilemma and now it will continue to be one,” Champagne said about housing for juvenile offenders.
Champagne said that housing juveniles is expensive, with full-time education and counseling required for them.
Financial structures are in place for adult inmates, he said.
“But when you only hold two or three or four (juveniles) at a time, you can’t just stop and start operations,” Champagne said.
Falcon said that it appeared the closure of the Assumption Parish Youth Detention Center would mean that about 30 full-time and part-time employees would lose their jobs there.