Last Modified: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 7:16 PM
With Phelps Correctional Center’s Nov. 1 closing date looming, the offender population at the prison north of DeQuincy dropped below 100 on Tuesday, officials said.
Just over 70 prisoners were transferred Tuesday to Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel, said Roy Williams, acting Phelps warden, leaving 96 inmates at the prison.
Nearly 900 prisoners were being kept at the prison, which can hold up to 942, when the state announced in a surprise move Sept. 14 that it planned to close the facility by Nov. 1.
The first major move of 230 inmates took place Oct. 1, and Williams said he expects the correctional center to be emptied of prisoners by Friday. He said that will give prison workers enough time to ready the facility for closure.
While most of the prisoners are being transferred to Angola State Penitentiary, the inmates moved Tuesday were sent to Hunt, because that’s where the garment factory that operated at Phelps is being reassembled.
The prisoners were originally scheduled to be transferred Monday, but a transportation mix-up delayed the move by a day, Williams said.
A few trusties who will be working on local work crews will be transferred to area jails this week, he said.
Williams said prison staff has also been dropping fast from the 269 employed when the state announced the closing. He said he couldn’t give an exact number, but there had been no problems with the inmates because “we’ve got enough people to manage a much smaller population.”
The mood around the prison has been “solemn,” Williams said. “Everybody has accepted the fact that it’s closing,” he said. “It’s kind of sad to see things winding down.”
Along with every other load of prisoners or equipment that gets sent to another prison, Phelps has also been shipping out crops like sweet potatoes and eggplant, Williams said.
Williams stayed about a month and a half past his scheduled retirement date to oversee the final days of the prison. He took over as warden last Friday for Robert Henderson, who retired, in what Williams said was a previously planned move.
A job fair will be 9 a.m.-noon today at First United Methodist Church in DeQuincy.
The event is geared toward Phelps employees who will soon be out of work, but it’s open to anyone, DeQuincy Mayor Lawrence Henagan said.