The administrator of the Lafayette Parish Juvenile Detention Home said Wednesday he's concerned the center will fill up quickly with the closure Monday of the parish Juvenile Assessment Center.
"The JAC center is very vital to what we do at the Juvenile Detention Center," administrator Bobby Cormier said.
Sheriff Mark Garber announced last week he was shutting down the Juvenile Assessment Center on Monday because Lafayette Parish has not paid the $267,000 per year it is committed to paying via an intergovernmental agreement. The JAC staff assessed every juvenile arrested in the parish to determine if they qualified for any kind of treatment program, diversion program or release to their parents.
Garber also sued Lafayette Consolidated Government in October for not paying costs he believes the parish is required by state law to pay for operating the parish jail. LCG attorneys, in a written response, said in part the parish doesn't have the millions the sheriff maintains it needs to pay to operate the jail.
Cormier addressed the Lafayette Parish Charter Transition Committee's meeting, preparing for the transition in January from a nine-person city-parish council to a city council and a parish council, about the detention home. The facility, he said, opened in 1971 and operates with 16 rooms, each with two beds, and 35 employees. Of 985 juveniles arrested last year, about 400 were sent to the juvenile detention home, some stay a few days, others a few months, Cormier said.
Operations at the Lafayette Juvenile Assessment Center will be suspended starting Monday because of a lack of funding by Lafayette Consolidate…
The shut down of the JAC, he said, will impact the juvenile detention center because every juvenile arrested will go to the juvenile home instead of the JAC.
"I think it will quickly fill up and I'm going to put a no vacancy sign on the gate," Cormier said.
Judges, he said, will have to decide if there are some juveniles in the detention home he can release to make room for those accused of violent crimes.
Asked what he needs to handle the situation, Cormier said, "The administration and sheriff need to get together and work it out. "I'm a net in a Ping-Pong game. I'm right in the middle of it."
A property tax dedicated to the juvenile home plus other revenue generated by the facility generates about $3.2 million a year, Lorrie Toups, LCG chief finance officer, said. This year, the home is budgeted to spend nearly $3 million and is expected to end the fiscal year with a $4 million fund balance.
The juvenile detention center, Cormier said, collected $320,000 last year from other parishes for housing their juveniles. That income will decrease or disappear if he has to house more local juveniles because of the JAC closing. In addition, the state is requiring starting in 2020 17-year-old offenders to be housed in juvenile centers, further reducing the number of beds available to other parishes.
City-Parish Attorney Paul Escott stopped discussion about some aspects of the JAC saying there are other pending lawsuits, "some of which may incidentally involve the JAC."
The charter transition committee is next scheduled to meet at 3:45 p.m. Dec. 4 at 705 W. University Ave. in the council meeting room.