The closure of the Opelousas city jail is having a financial impact on the Parish.
The parish jail has enough space to house 232 inmates. Since the closure of the city jail two months ago, the Parish jail has housed inmates that otherwise would have gone to the city jail. That has pushed the parish jail to capacity and it comes at a cost to the parish.
“That additional charge is $24.50 a day, per prisoners, per day,” Parish President Bill Fontenot said. “When you send out prisoners at 20 a pop, that could cost thousands.”
Fontenot said the parish’s bill to house inmates has more than doubled this year.
“We’ve had historically $5,000 per month of bills that the parish must pay to outside prisons to keep the overflow of our prisoners here,” Fontenot said. “Recently we’ve got a bill somewhere around $16,000 for outside prisoner housing. We’ve seen a jump in the last month or two.”
Fontenot says the parish budget for housing inmates is about $50 thousand per year. He also says the parish will have to move money around in the parish budget. That could come from areas like road maintenance. They’re also looking into grants and loans.
In the meantime, Fontenot says they’re working with the sheriff to look at other ways to keep fewer inmates.
“The thing to do is to process prisoners so that they can be out on bond or whatever it takes to make sure the community is safe, but that those who necessarily have to be jailed will be jailed,” Fontenot said.