St. James ponders future of youth detention center

St. James Parish Councilman Terry McCreary has suggested housing minimum-security prisoners in the parish-run youth detention center near Donaldsonville after the facility shuts down June 30.

If there is “overflow” from local minimum-security prisons, officials could pay St. James Parish to house their prisoners at the west bank center, McCreary said during a Parish Council meeting Wednesday.

“That would help us actually turn a profit and also give us a chance to employ some people in St. James Parish,” McCreary said.

McCreary said he did not know if the youth center buildings could legally house minimum-security prisoners and asked the Parish Council to contact the Louisiana Department of Corrections and Public Safety to see if that was feasible.

Parish President Timmy Roussel said other officials have suggested turning the soon-to-be empty facility into a nursing home or a prisoner work-release center.

St. James Parish government officials have said they will close the detention center, near the Sunshine Bridge, on June 30 because of new state regulations that will drive up the cost of opening the facility.

The youth center, housing juvenile offenders from across the River Parishes region, will be relocated to a converted Assumption Parish adult detention center in Napoleonville and will house as many as 96 juveniles, officials have said.

Parish officials are expecting Assumption Parish Sheriff Mike Waguespack to move youth center juveniles to the new facility by the end of June.

Also Wednesday, Ridgely Mitchell, confidential assistant to the parish president, addressed a concern regarding a number of employees leaving the parish youth center before its expected closure for other jobs.

If two more supervisors leave the youth center, Mitchell said, the facility will have to close before June 30.

Mitchell said he was told by Waguespack that he and St. James Parish Sheriff Willy Martin would handle the problem if that occurs.

Mitchell added that several judges on the youth center commission said they would find a place for the juveniles to go until the new youth center opens.

The Parish Council also discussed pursuing a contract to secure a certain number of beds for parish juvenile offenders at the new facility but did not act on the matter.