LIVINGSTON – Plans are underway to form a committee which would address the mounting deficit for the Livingston Parish Detention Center.
The proposal by Livingston Parish Councilman Garry “Frog” Talbert drew approval from his fellow members at the March 23 meeting.
The committee would bring together members of the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office and Livingston Parish Council members to hammer out plans for deficit reduction and hopefully create a revenue surplus for the Detention Center.
The representatives from the LPSO would consist of veterans with specific knowledge tied to the Detention Center, Sheriff Jason Ard said.
Livingston Parish’s rapidly growing population has played a major role in the deficit, Ard said.
“We’re in the same predicament we were in before the new facility was built – overcrowding,” he said. “We currently have to send inmates out of the parish.”
The number as of Thursday, March 30 was 100, Ard said.
The transfers cost the parish $22 per day per inmate, he said.
“We’re going to have to look at what we have, what we need, and how to get there,” Ard said.
Much of the problem for the parish stems from the laws in relation to co-mingling of inmates.
“We know the bed mix isn’t that great and the fact that we have empty beds, yet we have to send prisoners out of parish because there are laws about what we can do about the co-mingling of inmates,” Talbert said. “You can’t put women and men together, or felons with people in jail on citations and you have to have isolations for those who test HIV-positive.”
The parish in 2015 spent $300,000 to house inmates in other correctional facilities. The total swelled to $1.2 million last year, of which $575,000-$600,000 was related to the flood, Talbert said.
Livingston Parish government shelled out $100,000 in January alone.
“If we ignore it and put our heads in the sand, the problems will get worse,” he said. “If we’re spending more than a million a year out of the parish, that’s taking away from other things we could be doing, such as roads and drainage.”
The number of women inmates exceeds that of their male counterparts, Talbert said.
“The number of women exceeds what our beds are,” he said. “We have a substantial number of women we’ve sent elsewhere.”
The idea may come down to an expansion of beds for women or for the overall number of beds.
“We need to figure a way to anticipate our needs and explore cost-savings ideas,” Talbert said. “We can’t ignore that obviously we have more prisoners than beds.
“If we don’t do something, the detention center has the potential to really impact the budget negatively,” he said.
The housing of inmates from other parishes yields a substantial windfall for correctional facilities in extremely rural areas such as Allen, East Carroll, Madison and Tensas, he said.
“They make money off their prisons,” Talbert said. “I’d like to know if there’s a possibility to build larger than we need and take some of the Department of Corrections.
“Any way we approach it, it’s a business decision,” he said. “We need to look to see what it costs to keep them here, and whatever makes the most business sense will be the recommendation.”