Outstanding warrants to be targeted
Local law enforcement officials announced Monday that Baton Rouge’s City Jail will be opened for another two-week period of 24-hour-a-day operations to clear thousands of outstanding warrants in East Baton Rouge Parish.
The period will begin Monday and end Friday, June 29, East Baton Rouge on Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said at a news conference at Baton Rouge City Court.
The program is designed to clear some of the more than 164,000 outstanding warrants in the parish’s criminal justice system, Gautreaux said.
“If you have outstanding warrants, you need to take care of your business,” Gautreaux said. “If you do not, we will take care of it for you.”
During the operation, anyone arrested in the parish on a misdemeanor, with some exceptions, will be booked into the City Jail on St. Louis Street, Gautreaux said.
The exceptions are violent offenders, juveniles, disruptive inmates, pregnant women, anyone with special medical needs, those with a state district criminal bench warrant and anyone booked under suspicion of drunken driving, Gautreaux said.
Those booked in the City Jail during this period who do not bond out after 36 hours will be taken to Parish Prison, Gautreaux said.
With numerous law enforcement heads and public officials standing behind him, Gautreaux urged residents to voluntarily take care of their outstanding warrants to avoid spending time behind bars.
He said anyone with questions about their outstanding warrants can call (225) 389-3889.
“To ignore a warrant or just tear it up and have total indifference to it is not going to be tolerated,” Gautreaux said.
The Sheriff’s Office and Constable’s Office performed a similar two-week operation in July 2011. That period led to 348 arrests and to 772 outstanding warrants being cleared, Gautreaux said.
In addition, residents voluntarily resolved 5,131 warrants and about $191,600 in additional revenue was raised from fines, fees and bonds, Sheriff’s spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks said.
“We know that this method works at clearing up the system,” Gautreaux said.
The jail can hold up to 150 people but usually only sees about 20 per day for temporary holding and processing, Gautreaux said. Its doors are normally open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Keeping the City Jail open continually will help relieve congestion at Parish Prison and allow more space at Parish Prison for violent offenders, Gautreaux said.
The Sheriff’s Office and Constable’s Office will dedicate five people — two sheriff’s deputies and three constable’s officers — to handle processing and transportation during each jail shift, Brown said. Other deputies and officers will supplement where needed, he said.
The Metro Council has set aside $50,000 for the upcoming operation mostly to fund personnel costs, including salaries and overtime, Gautreaux said.
Mayor Pro Tem Mike Walker said the Metro Council will continue to search for funds to pay for a permanent 24-hour misdemeanor facility.
“We believe it’s not a matter of money, it’s a matter of priority spending,” he said.
The Metro Council also adopted a resolution in October urging all judges in the parish to impose a $50 warrant recall fee for anyone who misses a misdemeanor or traffic ticket court date. The fee is designed to help fund a 24-hour misdemeanor facility, the resolution says.
However, state district judges were concerned about their legal and ethical ability to impose such a fee, District Attorney Hillar Moore III said.
The judges will meet Wednesday to discuss the potential recall fee, which City Court already imposes, Moore said.
In addition, Baton Rouge Police Chief Dewayne White announced Monday that Gautreaux has given him the go-ahead to station 10 city police officers in Parish Prison to create BRPD’s own central booking hub in the jail.
Putting the officers there could expedite police’s booking process by a few hours because officers will no longer have to bring people who have been arrested to First District for processing before taking them to Parish Prison, White said.
“That officer ... can go back into service and get back out servicing the community faster,” White said.