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Sheriff: All aspects of work-release program will be reviewed

Last Modified: Wednesday, December 05, 2012 10:35 PM

By Johnathan Manning / American Press

Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso said “all aspects” of the local Transitional Work Program will be reviewed after the weekend slaying of Brittany Grosse.

A work-release prisoner, 26-year-old Dustin Belast Pleasant, is accused of killing Grosse on Friday night near Big Daddy’s Sports Grill, where both worked, she as a regular employee.

Pleasant is charged with second-degree murder.

Mancuso said eligibility requirements and on-site checks “specifically" will be reviewed.

“The process of review will include input from current employers and corrections personnel at all levels in the program,” Mancuso said in a statement. “Because this is a (Department of Corrections) program we will also be working in conjunction with them to develop any new supervision protocol.”

Police said Grosse’s body was found at the corner of Alma and Melvin lanes, a half-block from Big Daddy’s.

Employers are responsible for “supervising and monitoring” work-release employees while they are at work, Pam LaBorde, Department of Corrections spokeswoman, said in an email.

LaBorde said the DOC is investigating whether Big Daddy’s is responsible for Pleasant’s departure from the work site. Jerry LeBlanc, owner of Big Daddy’s, declined to comment, saying that restaurant staff is continuing to grieve.

As of Nov. 23, more than 3,700 offenders are participating in the 46 work-release programs around the state, LaBorde said. She said the DOC’s records of the program date to 1990, but that the program itself is believed to date to the 1960s.

With some exceptions, inmates in the DOC system within three years of getting out of prison are eligible to be recommended for the program if they meet requirements outlined by state law and DOC policy, she said.

Sex offenders as well as offenders with arrests or records that “reveal habitual or compulsive use of violence” against others are not eligible, LaBorde said.

Pleasant’s only criminal history was a felony conviction of aggravated assault of a police officer, LaBorde said.

Mancuso said at a news conference Monday that Pleasant, who had about 250 days left of a six-year sentence, met the criteria to be in the program.

Work-release prisoners earn at least 50 cents per hour more than minimum wage, with deductions allowed for incidental expenses, clothing, room, board and transportation, according to DOC policy. Deductions cannot exceed 60 percent of gross wages, or $63.50 per day, whichever is less.

Similar to a quote Jeff Travis, DOC chief of operations, made at the news conference, LaBorde called the work-release program a “bridge between incarceration and life in the community.”

Travis said Monday that while offenders have walked off of jobs in the past, there has never been an incident “of this magnitude.”

“It’s programs like this that reintegrate offenders back into the community with a job, with money and hopefully with a new start in life as a first offender,” Mancuso said at the news conference.

“Obviously, (Pleasant’s) actions chose a different path. I can assure you that through the screening process, that we will re-evaluate. Had we had any indication that this would happen, he certainly would not be in our work-release program.”

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