Covering Louisiana

Mar 28, 2014 6:21 PM by AP

Shuttered Phelps prison to reopen

DEQUINCY, La. (AP) - The former state prison, C. Paul Phelps Correctional Center, will reopen as a transitional work program for non-violent offenders, the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections said Friday.

"Repurposing Phelps ... honors the Department's commitment to area leaders to find the best possible use but in a fashion that encourages education, training and self-support, in an effort to reduce incarceration and recidivism rates," said Jimmy LeBlanc, the department's secretary.

The department closed Phelps on Nov. 1, 2012, claiming it was old, inefficient and costly to keep open. When it closed, it housed nearly 900 inmates and had about 300 employees.

KPLC-TV reports the program will be open to 300 adult men who are non-violent, non-sex offenders and who are within four years of their release date. Officials hope to move in the first round of participants in late summer, early fall.

Participants without previous job training or vocational certification will get the chance to achieve certification in an in-demand skilled trade. Upon completion of the program, participants will leave with approved employment, plans for employee retention and residence plans, the department said.

"The TWP provides increased opportunities for offenders to enhance existing skills or to obtain new skills for in-demand jobs such as welding, carpentry and plumbing," said LeBlanc. "It also provides employees (in southwest Louisiana as well as other areas of the state) with qualified employees to meet business and expansion goals."

The corrections department also Friday issued a request for proposals to potential contractors to run the program at the former Phelps site. That contractor would be required to acquire and maintain accreditation with the American Correctional Association just as state corrections facility do.

The contractor would also be responsible for routine and preventative maintenance of the facility as well as proper insurance. A pre-proposal conference is scheduled for April 8 and proposals must be submitted by May 13.

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