An unauthorized visit to a sick grandmother landed a work-release inmate and an employee in jail Saturday, according to the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office.
Kendal Ferrand, 19, was not in his bed during a 1 a.m. check Saturday at the privatized work-release facility near Slidell, the Sheriff’s Office said in a news release issued Tuesday.
At the same time, a St. Tammany Workforce Solutions supervisor noticed that an employee, Sidney Brooks Jr., 40, also was missing.
The facility contacted the Sheriff’s Office, which sent deputies to the Production Drive center.
Ferrand was found in the building while Brooks was located at a local gas station, refueling one of the work-release vans.
Ferrand told deputies that he had paid Brooks to take him to New Orleans to visit his sick grandmother; he was away from the facility for about two hours, he said.
The two did not follow guidelines for family visitation requests that the state Department of Corrections has issued for transitional work programs, the Sheriff’s Office said.
For that reason, the two men were booked into the St. Tammany Parish jail, Ferrand on one count of simple escape and Brooks on a count of assisting an escape.
Earlier this month, another inmate in the program escaped. Cecil Martin left his workplace March 17 to go to New Orleans with his girlfriend, according to Allen Tingle, one of the owners of St. Tammany Workforce Solutions.
Martin, a member of a violent New Orleans street gang who is serving a 10-year sentence for drug and gun charges, was caught the next day by New Orleans police during a traffic stop. His girlfriend also was arrested.
The Sheriff’s Office did not notify the public of that escape. Spokesman George Bonnett said the agency does not issue news releases “concerning the activities or status of transitional work program participants not under our care, custody or control.”
He said exceptions are made when the person is believed to pose an immediate threat to the community or when the office believes that such a notice would not harm its ability to quickly locate the escapee.
The news release issued Tuesday is the first about an escape from the Slidell facility since Sheriff Jack Strain privatized it about three years ago, although Ferrand’s unauthorized departure was the fifth escape from the facility since St. Tammany Workforce Solutions began running it.
Slidell Police Chief Randy Smith, who will take office as sheriff July 1, has said he plans to end private management of the facility and run it in-house, as was the case for about 15 years before Strain turned it over to the current operators, who include friends and close associates of his.
Smith said last week that Martin’s escape and two possible inmate drug overdoses, one fatal, at the center concerned him.
Strain closed down another privatized work-release facility in the parish two years ago after a rash of escapes. That program, run by Northshore Workforce LLC, had the highest number of escapes in the state in 2013. The decision to close it followed a series of critical stories by The New Orleans Advocate and WWL-TV.
Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.