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Sunday, July 21, 2019

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New Lafourche Parish jail will expand programming for inmates

New Lafourche Parish jail will expand programming for inmates

The new Lafourche Parish jail will feature expanded programming for its inmates after it opens later in the year.

The current jail, which was built in 1976, has limited space, so it doesn’t allow for all inmates to receive rehabilitative programming, said Lt. Brennan Matherne, of the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Although the current facility does have modular units where some inmates can receive programming, the new $40 million jail will accommodate up to 600 inmates and have enough space for every inmate to participate.

Each inmate in the new Lafourche Parish jail that stays for an extended period will be evaluated and receive a custom programming plan, Matherne said.

The new initiative aims to discover the root cause of why the inmate has been arrested — whether it’s drugs, alcohol, anger issues or something else — and tailor a plan that addresses those particular issues via programming in an attempt to keep them from coming back to jail.

“We want to be able to reach people on that first arrest or on that second arrest when they come in before they commit that serious crime that lands them in prison for many years,” Matherne said.

Matherne described the approach as an “individualized approach to rehabilitation.” For example, if one inmate appears to solely struggle with anger issues, they may receive more hours of programming devoted to anger management, whereas other inmates may receive less.

“We’re trying to prevent what we’ve been doing for years, and what pretty much everyone has been doing for years, (which) is simply warehousing prisoners while they’re awaiting trial,” Matherne said.

The initiative is, in part, based off of the success of the Lafourche Parish Drug Court, which diverts nonviolent offenders from the traditional court system into one geared toward treating their underlying drug problem through addiction counseling.

“If somebody is not accepted into that program then that doesn’t mean that they don’t have problems with drugs,” Matherne said. “That means they have a series of other factors that prohibit them from going into that specific program. But while we have jail, we still want to be able to reach them.”

The cost for the new programming measures is included in the 0.2 percent sales tax passed in 2014 to pay for the new facility. Matherne said the cost-savings from no longer having to send inmates out-of-parish will make up for the slight increase of cost for programming.

“We’re hoping to avoid those long term convictions (and) long term prison stays,” Matherne said.

The jail’s grand opening ceremony is scheduled for Nov. 28, and inmates are slated to be relocated from the existing jail to the new facility from Dec. 1 to Dec. 2.


-- Daily Comet Staff Writer Natalie Schwartz can be reached at 857-2205 or Follow her on Twitter @nmschwartz23.