Five murders in Lafourche in September! Heroin use is rising.
Lafourche Parish must build a new jail to address these serious problems, for prevention and punishment.
We know the voters of Lafourche will not approve a new tax, even before a poll confirmed this. So we looked within. There are four parishwide property taxes that could be considered:
- Drainage - 5 mills, $4 million
- Public buildings - 2.3 mills, $1.8 million
- Recreation - 1.5 mills, $914,000
- Library - 6.3 mills, $5 million ($8 million in reserve)
The only opportunity lies within the Library budget, the most unpopular choice. Lafourche's excellent public library system offers nine community branches, the latest technology, museum-type displays, and is filled with thousands of excited little children every summer.
According to state standards, it ranks among the best.
"Books, not crooks”.
"Education, not incarceration".
These are slogans used by proponents of the library against the rededication of one mill of the money they now collect. We agree!
But we must build a new jail. Along with the $850,00 from the library tax, the parish will dedicate $600,000 toward the annual debt service for a new facility. While there are those who advocate for a more expensive jail, a $25 million detention center is what we can afford.
Our 40-year-old current jail can hold about 270 prisoners, necessitating a daily transfer out of about 200 prisoners. This costs the parish about $1.3 million annually.
This begs the question: Why not dedicate the $1.3 million to building a new jail?
The answer lies in what the parish is mandated to provide. By state law, the parish must build, maintain, furnish, insure and pay the utilities for the facility, clothe and feed the inmates and provide medical care.
A new detention center will also allow our judges to sentence criminals to the full penalty they deserve, resulting in additional inmates housed on any given day.
New jail designs focus on mental health and rehabilitation services, aimed at releasing more productive citizens back into the community after serving their sentences. These services will add to the parish's costs.
Rededication of existing taxes is not unprecedented in Lafourche. In 2004, voters approved two separate rededications, allowing us to use existing tax money to remove dilapidated buildings, build and operate the animal shelter, pay for mosquito control and senior services.
With $8 million in reserve and new buildings, the library can continue to provide the current level of services for years to come.
The ACLU is involved in this issue, claiming that branches will close, workers will be laid off, and services will suffer if this proposed rededication is approved on Nov. 16. The ACLU is the organization that succeeded in removing God and prayer from our schools, yet insists that we provide religious material when an inmate demands it.
In my view, more God and prayer in schools would result in less crime.
As a postscript, the burglary of the Raceland Library remains unsolved!
Crime hits home for all of us.
Lafourche Parish President
Posted on Tue, November 5, 2013