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Local officials meet with Landrieu about Phelps facility

Last Modified: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 7:47 PM

By John Guidroz / American Press

Local officials met Wednesday with U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., in Washington, D.C. to discuss reusing the C. Paul Phelps Correctional Center in DeQuincy, a facility that was closed last November.

George Swift, president and CEO of the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance; R.B. Smith, the alliance’s vice president of workforce development; and DeQuincy Mayor Lawrence Hennigan attended. Swift said they met with Landrieu and her staff, along with a “representative of a private corrections firm.”

“This is the first step in trying to identify reuse for the Phelps facility,” Swift said. “It’s going to take time, but we’re working with Hennigan to try and find another use for the facility that will bring jobs back to DeQuincy.”

The state announced in September that it planned to close the medium-security prison, a decision that is expected to save $11.85 million in the next fiscal year. Most of the nearly 900 prisoners were moved to Angola State Penitentiary. The facility had 269 employees when the closure was announced.

Hennigan said a commitment to bring in federal prisoners from other states may happen because it is cheaper to house prisoners in Louisiana than in other states. According to a report from the U.S. Justice Department, Louisiana spends an average of $12,951 a year to house a prisoner. Rhode Island is on the higher end, spending an average of $38,503 per inmate per year.

“It wouldn’t take long to run up substantial savings,” Hennigan said. “We kind of pointed out that it’s a cost savings to the government.”

Hennigan said he and other officials may further discuss the issue with Landrieu’s staff next week.

“We’re going to steadily work until we get something there,” he said. “We’re all kind of in this together. I just want to get 260 people back to work.”

Matthew Lehner, Landrieu’s deputy communications director, said in an email that the senator is “committed to working to find possible solutions” for Phelps.

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