We are just weeks away from the ribbon cutting and the opening of a new Correctional Complex and a new era of corrections for Lafourche Parish. The grand opening ceremony for the Lafourche Parish Correctional Complex is slated for November 28, 2018, and inmates are scheduled to begin populating the building during the first week of December. This accomplishment ranks among one of the most significant achievements in the history of Lafourche Parish and embraces contemporary philosophical advancements in the area of corrections.
At the outset, it is important to understand that local jails, by and large, house “arrestees” whose criminal charges have not been adjudicated and are presumed innocent by the criminal justice system. Because it is difficult, at best, to predict who will be arrested by which agency and brought into the jail for booking, the task of operating a jail is a complex one with many challenges. Because prisons, on the other hand, house inmates who have been convicted of a crime and are serving out a criminal sentence, they generally have a better opportunity to implement and oversee meaningful intervention and rehabilitation initiatives. Despite these systemic barriers, we are committed to doing all that we can to address the needs, risks and challenges of every individual who finds themselves incarcerated in Lafourche Parish regardless of their incarcerated status.
I know that while our citizens are as concerned about crime and being tough on criminals as anyone else, they recognize that there are opportunities and proven strategies that achieve better results (often at lower costs) by using evidence based programs designed around valid and reliable needs and risks assessments. For many years, however, Louisiana failed to embrace promising practices and became the world’s leading incarcerator. Even for the casual observer, it’s not very difficult to see this has not been effective. If having the highest incarceration rate in the world had produced the lowest crime rate in the US, then perhaps one could argue the effectiveness of being tough on crime versus being smart on crime. That was clearly not the case.
In my capacity as Lafourche Parish Sheriff, and as current President of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association and past president of the National Sheriff’s Association, I have been actively involved in the ongoing debate over innovative policies, practices and programs being employed around the U.S. that look at incarceration in a different light.
My staff and I believe that the Lafourche Parish Correctional Complex will succeed where the old system has failed. We will continue to identify, partner and work with stakeholders from every facet of government; as well as N.G.O.’s, community partners, faith based organizations, volunteers, etc., in an effort to develop new – and deploy previously discussed existing strategies and programs aimed at correcting behaviors and improving outcomes. Such programs already exist locally and have proven themselves worthy! Namely, for years we’ve witnessed local success at our own Transitional Work Program (work release) and the Lafourche Parish Drug Treatment Court.
Furthermore, by tailoring case management on an individualized basis, we can provide specific levels of programming that seek to address the root causes of a particular offender’s criminal activity. Be it drugs, alcohol, mental illness, anger, literacy, job skills, or whatever – our goal is to attempt to address those issues while they are incarcerated in our facility.
As for the facility itself, we will be moving from a facility built for the needs of Lafourche Parish in 1976, and the jail standards at that time. The existing facility is outdated and overcrowded. The antiquated block design forces correctional officers to “make rounds” on a catwalk surrounding inmates in cells.
The new correctional complex has been constructed using the direct supervision model. This means that the officers will be in direct contact with the inmates they supervise. Non-compliant, special needs, maximum security, or other inmates not suitable for a direct supervision setting will still be housed in traditional small group/individualized lockdowns. The new facility also presents an opportunity the old facility could never have: positive reinforcement. Inmates will be able to earn more freedoms and privileges around the facility based on behavior, something that is at a minimum at the existing jail. Research has shown this model is more effective and reduces assaults on guards and inmates.
While our facility will have additional numbers of beds, our goal is not to fill those beds with more prisoners. Our mission and vision is to provide a higher level of service to the inmates, and in turn the taxpayers, by providing opportunities for the inmates to educate and improve themselves. This way, we can return a better class of citizen to society once their incarceration ends. In doing so, by simply reducing recidivism we reduce crime, improve the quality of life for all citizens, and ultimately save taxpayers money in the process.
I am excited about the opportunities to make positive changes in peoples’ lives and assist them in becoming productive citizens. We will now have a modern jail facility which is safer for employees, inmates and visitors alike, and it has sufficient capacity to meet the needs of the parish. This correctional complex will afford us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve the overall quality of life for the citizens we serve. •