Nov 18, 2013 9:07 PM by Allison Bourne-Vanneck
A new jail in Lafayette Parish is just about complete and months away from opening. The $24 million facility will help the current jail in Lafayette which is running out of space, and housing more than nine hundred inmates.
The new jail won't replace the downtown jail, but instead it will increase capacity for the parish by 216 inmates. The new jail will also have a transitional housing facility, and house 196 inmates who are making the transition back into society. The 200,000sq ft. correctional facility is being built to blend in with its surroundings.
"If you drive by on Willow street, you don't really realize that this is a correctional complex, public safety complex, and that's the intention. We don't want to be all razor wired," Rob Reardon, who's Director of Corrections for the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office, said.
Reardon oversees the jails, and says the new jail on Willow street resembles a campus. It has a building to house inmates, plus buildings for video visitation and training for the Lafayette Parish Sheriff's Office.
Inmates housed at the Willow street jail are described as low security inmates, who will stay in minimum security housing. However, a deputy will stay with the inmates at all times. Meanwhile, inside the inmate housing facility, windows are placed high so they can't see the outside, and from the road people can't see in.
"The inmates that will be in this specific housing unit here are going to be those inmates that are out on the street," Reardon said. "They're the low security inmates. Inmate workers we call them. Those are the inmates that are out on the streets cutting the grass, and cleaning the ditches, and working for the community," he said.
When the inmates are not working, they'll have access to programs the new facility plans on providing. In fact, all they have to do is walk up upstairs, and there are rooms dedicated to programs like GEDs, anger management, and even substance abuse treatment. Reardon says this helps inmates when they leave jail, and increases their chances of not getting re-incarcerated.
"So 65% of the people leaving prisons or jails within three years are being re-incarcerated. But if you remain in our programming and successfully complete it, it's about 35%," Reardon said.
Once the complex is complete, offender housing in Lafayette Parish could increase by about 300 inmates, and the parish could have almost 1500 offenders in total.
"From my perspective it gives great insight to Sheriff Neustrom that he went about this process of purchasing this property to have a system in place that will allow the parish to grow. Because ultimately we didn't have that before we bought this," Reardon said.