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A Phelps Correctional offender in a medium security dormitory bows his head in prayer. (Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)<br>

A Phelps Correctional offender in a medium security dormitory bows his head in prayer. (Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)

Phelps inmates worry about being farther away from families

Last Modified: Monday, October 01, 2012 4:00 PM

By Johnathan Manning / American Press

DEQUINCY — Among the biggest concerns of many of the inmates being moved from Phelps Correctional Center is that they will be farther from their families, several prisoners said Friday.

Charles Barzar, a dorm rep at the medium-security facility, said his parents and his children live within 50 miles of the prison, making visits every two weeks possible.

“Right now it’s a pretty trying time on everybody,” he said. “You’ve got a lot of offenders who live locally, as well as staff.

“It not only affects those who work here, it also affects the offenders.”

The state announced Sept. 14 that it plans to close the prison by Nov. 1. A large percentage of the prisoners are expected to be moved to Angola State Penitentiary, while those with medical or mental health issues will go to Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel, Phelps Warden Robert Henderson said.

“I’m from around here. I don’t think they should close,” inmate Jeremiah Spell said.

Fellow prisoner Ryan Rashall shared similar sentiments: “I don’t like the fact that everybody is losing their jobs, and I don’t like the fact that those who came here as geographical transfers are being moved far away from here.”

Rashall, a Lake Charles native, said he requested a transfer to Phelps to be closer to home.

“I trust God because I just believe it will be all right wherever I go, but do I like it? No,” he said.

Rashall has another reason to want to stay at Phelps: He has a room in the honor cottage, the dorm in which the best-behaved of Phelps’ prisoners stay.

The rooms don’t have doors, but do offer more privacy.

“No, we’re not going to have an honor cottage at Angola,” Rashall said.

When Phelps was opened in the 1950s, it was done so as a prison “for first-time offenders with potential for rehabilitation,” Henderson said.

In 1987, the policy was changed to accept those with 10 years or less left to serve, although there are those with life sentences now at Phelps, he said.

Not everyone was upset to be going to Angola.

“I hate people losing their jobs, but it’s also a blessing because we’re going to get to Angola and they’ll have different programs where you can get diplomas and better yourself,” inmate Clarence Guidry said.

Robert Roussel and Darrell Cook said they were transferred to Phelps in June as missionaries after completing four-year Bible college degrees at Angola.

“It’s been a blessing to work with the chapel department here, working with these young men,” Cook said. “Helping them keep their faith and help them be productive. Our journey is about to be over.”

Roussel said other inmates have “ceaseless” questions about Angola ­— asking about visitation, church, the yard, work, the canteen and the dormitories.

He said Angola has a bad reputation, but “it’s one of the best places to do time. Nobody wants to be incarcerated, but it is what it is. You hear the old stories, but those are things of the past.”

Angola offers many programs in “Life 101,” he said.

Speaking words similar to many of the other inmates, Roussel acknowledged he has little control of where he is moved.

“From God’s perspective, he’s in charge of everything,” he said. “I believe that. This isn’t happening without God knowing.”

Posted By: P.Q. On: 10/8/2012

Title: Perfect?

No, not hardly but I am not in jail neither.Nobody is without sin but PRODUCTIVE members of society are without crime and in prison!

Posted By: weston On: 10/3/2012

Title: moving from Phelps

Shame on the negative comments about the guys at Phelps.You have to walk in peoples shoes to understand what's in their lives.Just what makes you think your so perfect.

Posted By: P.Q. On: 10/1/2012

Title: God loves them...

regardless if anyone else does or not.I do not feel bad for them.Not even for a second.THEY made the choice to break the law now they can just deal with it.

Posted By: ACS On: 9/30/2012

Title: Sympathy

I feel sad for those who are going be away from their families. Regardless of the mistakes they made they are still human beings and deserved to be loved.

Posted By: P.Q. On: 9/30/2012

Title: GET OVER IT!

You frickin idiots, you are in prison.It is not supposed to be easy.I don't think you should see anything from the outside world.Maybe not seeing your families will make you think twice about being a THUG next time!

Posted By: Steve A On: 9/30/2012

Title: I'm Touched

Too bad............and I'm quite sure that none of their victims give a rat's !@# ......

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