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Public hearing on new jail funding raises concerns regarding criminal justice

Posted at 10:17 PM, Nov 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-09 23:17:14-05

VILLE PLATTE, La. — While discussing and sharing concerns during a public hearing Tuesday night over how to fund a new jail in Evangeline Parish, some were worried those behind bars right now shouldn’t be there to begin with.

Evangeline Parish Sheriff Charles Guillory is proposing a $21.4 million facility. He says the current jail is at capacity, and the parish spends $50-80,000 per month on housing inmates elsewhere.

Guillory has proposed a plan on how to fund the construction of a new jail, and the police jury also has other proposals on the table. Among the proposals up for consideration: consolidating 911 services, closing a library, and a health unit. Regardless of how the jail is built, the jury must continue to pay for the operation of the facility.

Some argued criminal justice reform should be considered.

"Let's make sure we take of the problems we got now before we go build another jail ... because you didn't fix the problem. There it is,” said Rufus Searile. “Go through the roster that you got. Everybody you have in other parishes. Some of them got a joint ... they're locked up on a $25,000 bond, really?"

Plus, some urged the sheriff’s office and police jury to work with the courts to get the ball rolling on cases put on hold because of the pandemic.

"Let's start moving the docket,” said a man during public comment. “We've got a docket that was pulled last Tuesday. 160 cases on the docket. I think 16 were disposed of."

Some said if the parish didn't house pretrial inmates for misdemeanor or minor offenses, the parish wouldn't have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to send inmates to other parishes.

Not everybody shared that opinion; some argued the parish does need a new, bigger jail.

"To a certain extent, Rufus Searile makes a point ... but it's very mis-characterized,” said District Attorney Trent Brignac. “Anybody that does not think that there's a crime problem in Evangeline Parish is not living in Evangeline Parish. There is a crime problem; it needs to be addressed, and the sheriff is doing a great job and I applaud him for it."

The jury is calling for collaboration between the public, the sheriff’s office, and the police jury itself to find a way to fund the new jail.

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