Jeff Davis residents hear plans for new jail

By By Doris Maricle / American Press

JENNINGS — Jeff Davis Parish residents got their first glimpse Monday at plans for a new $10 million parish jail and a proposed

sales tax to fund its maintenance.

Jail Committee Chairman Ronnie Petree and Sheriff Ivy Woods presented the case to build a new jail and a proposed half-cent

sales tax for its maintenance and operations during a public meeting attended by more than 50 residents.

“The current facility, built in 1964, is undersized, outdated, always filed to capacity and in need of replacement,” Petree

said.

The lack of jail space in the current 62-bed facility and its current location are also less than ideal, he said.

Plans for the new jail call for a 200-bed facility with room for 160 men, 20 women and 20 isolated cells.

A minimum of 97 percent of the jail space will be used for pre-trial offenders and prisoners with a maximum of six Department

of Correction inmates.

A location for the new jail has yet to be determined, but it will be located on a 10-20 acre site within five miles of Jennings

and the parish courthouse, Petree said.

Officials are currently considering two to three sites near Jennings after plans to use the old Southern Barbecue Sauce facility

on U.S. 90, just west of Jennings fell through, he said.

The parish has received $10 million from the state’s capital outlay funds to build the new jail, a fete that has never been

done and will not happen again, Petree said.

“I think we are blessed to have this

opportunity to get $10 million for our jail without having to ask voters

for a property

tax or a sales tax to build it and no financial match is required

from the parish,” he said. “The new jail will be built at

no cost to the parish.”

The state has moved $1.3 million from Priority 5 funding to Priority 1 to cover the cost of buying the land and architecture

plans, Sheriff Ivy Woods said.

Jeff Davis Parish voters will be asked to approve a new 10-year, half-cent sales tax to help fund the operation and maintenance

of the new jail on May 3. The tax is expected to generate $2.1 to $2.3 million annually.

“In the past, the parish would have had to pay for construction, maintenance and operation,” Petree said. “Now the voters

of Jeff Davis Parish will only be asked to pay for maintenance and operations. No construction cost.”

Lacassine resident George Gotreaux said with a sales tax “everybody is going to have to pay.”

Plans for the new jail are based on a 2012 feasibility study.

The study calls for consolidation of

all jails in the parish in the future. The plan would allow the parish

jail to house

24 misdemeanor offenders from local municipalities for about $10 a

day with additional cost charged for outside medical care,

Woods said.

The parish is already required by state law to house felony offenders for the municipalities, he said.

Welsh resident Jim Wright supports the regional jail concept which has been the focus of the Concerned Citizens of Welsh.

“We feel we need a regional approach with law enforcement to deliver as much services as we can,” Wright said. “We need to

be regionalized as far as law enforcement.”

A regional jail concept could also help with inmate medical expenses which is a hardship on smaller towns, he said.

“A really sick inmate could bankrupt a town,” Wright said.

Clarence Pete of Jennings said he supports the jail, but said more remedial programs are needed to reform inmates.

“I don’t see where were are really solving the problem,” Pete said. “You can lock somebody up, but with no training or education

they are stuck in a rut. All they know is street crime and they are going to repeat it again and teach others.”