Lafourche Parish new Jail will be a direct supervision facility

In a direct supervision jail the correctional officers and staff continuously interact with inmates in the housing units which allows them to identify problems in the early stages.

Officers, inmates prepare for new Lafourche jail

Houma Today

May 9, 2017

By Bridget Mire Staff Writer

For Capt. Cortrell Davis, the change from the current Lafourche Parish jail to the new one is about more than just moving inmates from one building to another.

“It’s actually changing the culture and the beliefs from an officer’s standpoint and from an inmate’s standpoint,” said Davis, the jail’s warden. “We have to transition into a new era of the way you deal with inmates, the way you supervise inmates and the way officers work the dormitories.”

The new Lafourche Parish Correctional Complex, which is expected to be completed in the latter part of 2018, will be located across from the current jail at the corner of La. 3185 and Veterans Boulevard in Thibodaux. Instead of the current block design, it will use direct supervision, with guards and inmates sharing the same space on a more open floor plan.

Guards patrol the cell blocks at the current jail every 15 to 30 minutes. In a direct supervision setting, a guard will be with the inmates 24 hours a day. Non-compliant, maximum-security inmates will still be on lockdown.

“Usually when you hear banging coming from the (inmate) area, it’s because somebody needs attention,” Davis said. “Something is going wrong, they need a question answered, they need something picked up, medical emergency. So they’re banging and making noise to get somebody’s attention. With an officer being present, it resolves all that. It suppresses all that because they’re there to handle things immediately.”

In addition, Davis said, direct supervision will also allow officers to stop fights or other negative behaviors before they start.

Davis said jail is also offering enhanced programs to prepare for the new jail. Topics include parenting, dyslexia and bettering oneself.

The Sheriff’s Office has set up makeshift direction supervision units in the current jail. On Monday, female inmates in one of the units engaged in debates. Davis said they also make cookbooks, write poetry and create art.

Jillien Jarvis has been in the jail since the end of October. She said the new setup took some getting used to, but it’s more structured.

“It’s a lot better,” she said. “The COs that sit in with us are very productive with us. They push us to keep doing better. We always have activities. A lot less stress, drama going on in the dorms. It used to be dark and gloomy in here. Now, it’s just a different mindset altogether.”

Sheriff Craig Webre has long decried the current jail, built in 1976, as outdated and overcrowded. Its capacity is 245, but housing inmates outside the parish helps keep that number lower.

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

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.

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.

Maj. Marty Dufrene, special projects coordinator, is overseeing the completion of the new jail. He said the project is probably about 15 percent complete.

“Right now they’re presently working on Building A, which includes the lobby, administration area, visitation area and library,” he said Tuesday. “They’re presently framing that up for the concrete as we speak. When they finish Building A, then they’re going to start working on the slabs for the holding areas.

Dufrene said a transition team has been chosen and was training in direct supervision at a Texas facility this week. Later this month, the Sheriff’s Office will host a four-day training with a consultant from the National Institute of Corrections.

“That training gives them the basis of what to do and prepare for in the transition process,” Dufrene said. “It includes everything, like rewriting policies, looking at schedules, looking at staffing. It’s everything involved with a new facility.”