Re: Our Views: “A new fight over prisons”
The Advocate’s recent editorial linking the consolidation of the offender population at C. Paul Phelps Correctional Center in DeQuincy to dwindling educational and vocational opportunities for offenders is simply wrong. It is also contrary to everything the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections has worked toward over the last several years.
Successful offender re-entry programming has been a priority of mine since I was warden at Dixon Correctional Institute. Since my appointment as secretary in 2008, it has become a top priority for the department as we have standardized re-entry programming at all state facilities and mandated offender participation prior to release. Equally as important, the department has expanded re-entry programming to reach state offenders on the local level.
DOC offenders assigned to PCC are moving to state correctional facilities so that the department can continue to provide the same level of educational, vocational and job skill opportunities available at PCC. In many cases, those offenders transferring to the Louisiana State Penitentiary will have more choices available to them compared to what Phelps provided (welding, automotive technology, carpentry, plumbing and other vocational and job skills). LSP, through its established Re-entry Court program, will also provide mentors (bible college graduates and others) that will help transferring offenders in adjusting to the new environment.
The consolidation of Phelps, as well as the consolidations of Forcht Wade Correctional Center in Keithville and J. Levy Dabadie in Pineville, saves millions of dollars for taxpayers while maintaining (and in some cases improving) the vital services and programming that offenders need to be successful. While the facilities have closed, the programs have been maintained in all cases. The Steve Hoyle Substance Abuse program moved from Forcht Wade to Bossier Parish and the department maintained the treatment staff to provide services. The offender work crews from J. Levy Dabadie Correctional Center still provide valuable community service, traveling instead from Avoyelles Correctional Center or a Rapides Parish facility. Similarly, there will be a “Phelps camp” at Angola where transferring offenders will be assigned (separately from lifers) and will pick up where they left off in terms of educational and vocational programming. If they were not involved in such programming, we will certainly encourage participation.
James “Jimmy” LeBlanc, secretary
Louisiana Department of Public Safety
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