Running out of Room

POSTED: Tuesday, March 10, 2009 - 6:01pm

UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 10:57pm

A new jail with the same old problem. The new Livingston Parish prison opened just weeks ago. It was supposed to solve the overcrowding problem, but our Emily Turner says that’s not the case. They had high hopes for the new detention center in Livingston Parish, but officials say it’s only a matter of time before its back to square one.

Space was a problem at the old Livingston Parish prison. At times, there were as many as 270 inmates and only 154 beds. The parish had no choice but to shop over 200 prisoners to other facilities, at a cost of about $25 a prisoner per day. The $18 million detention center was supposed to fix the problem, but Warden Jim Brown says it didn’t. He says, “I’m anticipating that within the next 3-4 months this facility will be completely filled up.”

Warden Brown says the new jail can hold 670 prisoners. Right now, it’s housing 444 inmates and another 118 Livingston prisoners are behind bars in neighboring parishes. “We have 100 beds left to grow into.” To make matters worse, the new prison had to increase its staff by 70%. To pay for those additional personnel, the parish is relying on money received for housing state inmates. They’re counting on 150 state prisoners to make ends meet.

“The parish told us this is the size of the facility that was going to be built. With the money we had available we said that’s great, we’re excited to have the new building, but we’re going to grow out of it very, very quickly.” Brown says parish officials should’ve made the jail bigger. “You would not have to open up wings of it, but you would have it there ready to go when the time comes and you would never have to pay for out of parish prisoners again.”

Warden Brown says the problem isn’t going away. He says the only answer is to add on to the brand new jail.