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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

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New Lafourche jail about a year from completion

New Lafourche jail about a year from completion

The new Lafourche Parish jail is about a year away from being complete if all goes as planned.

Maj. Marty Dufrene, special projects coordinator for the Sheriff’s Office, is overseeing the job. He said walls have started going up for the dormitories, along with a metal frame for the administrative area and a roof for the kitchen, medical and intake areas.

“Once all the walls and roof are up, they’re going to continue separating the interior,” Dufrene said. “We’re about 25 percent complete right now. The framework and general construction upfront goes by pretty quickly, but when you start doing the finishing work, it takes a little bit longer.”

The Lafourche Parish Correctional Complex will be located across from the current jail at the corner of La. 3185 and Veterans Boulevard in Thibodaux. Dufrene said it will total about 127,000 square feet and include five connected buildings.

“Building A is going to be your lobby, administration, visitation, booking and library,” he said. “Building B is going to be your medical area, laundry, and your kitchen and eating area. Buildings C and E are going to be your dorms. And then D and F are going to be segregated housing. The ones that are higher risk or cause problems are going to be in the segregated housing.”

The new jail will cost about $42 million and include about 500 beds with the potential for expansion to about 600 beds. A 0.2 percent sales tax that passed May 3, 2014, will pay for it.

Last year, the Sheriff’s Office purchased 42 acres for $962,775. The jail will not stretch over the whole property, but the land couldn’t be subdivided for sale.

Baton Rouge-based GraceHebert Architects and Thibodaux-based Duplantis Design Group are working with the Sheriff’s Office for the project. Yates Construction is the construction manager at risk.

Dufrene said one problem with the current jail is that it’s difficult to find parts for the obsolete equipment. The electrical and plumbing systems are also outdated, he said.

The parish government owns the current jail, which was built in 1976, and will have to decide what to do with it.

Instead of the current block design, the new jail will use direct supervision, with guards and inmates sharing the same space on a more open floor plan.

Sheriff’s Lt. Brennan Matherne, a spokesman for the agency, said that’s part of a new philosophy. But even though the new facility will be in better shape, he said, it will still be a jail.

“Regardless of the type of supervision we’re moving to or how new the building is, the people inside are still being denied their freedom,” he said.

And all inmates are innocent until proven guilty of a crime, he noted.

“The idea that a jail should be punishment is, I think, based on a false narrative,” he said. “Our jail is for pre-trial detainees for the most part. A prison like Angola, that is about the punishment of a sentence.”

Dufrene estimated that 80 percent of the jail’s inmates are awaiting trial and fit into the low- to moderate-risk categories.

Generally, those who have been convicted and sentenced to a year or less will serve their time at the jail rather than a state prison. Dufrene said he hopes inmates at the new jail will have the tools to make better decisions upon release.

“We are looking at rehabilitation and reintroduction back to the public,” he said. “When you warehouse them, you’re actually doing nothing to change their attitudes or habits and why they’re in there in the first place.”


-- Staff Writer Bridget Mire can be reached at 448-7639 or Follow her on Twitter @bridget_mire.