St. Helena jail making efforts to  be allowed to house state inmates

The St. Helena Parish Jail soon might be allowed to house state inmates again, which the sheriff said would help boost the facility’s budget.

The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections terminated a previous agreement for the housing of state inmates with St. Helena Parish in 2003 due to the parish’s failure to follow the state’s Basic Jail Guidelines, DOC spokeswoman Pam Laborde said.

Adherence to the guidelines, which cover such things as inmate food, clothing, medical treatment, security and grievance procedures, is required of any parish or local jail facility housing DOC prisoners, Laborde said.

Laborde could not specify which area of the guidelines the St. Helena Parish Jail had failed to uphold, only that the facility “had issues following the BJG in effect at the time.”

The department is working toward re-approval for the jail to house up to eight DOC offenders, pending the facility’s passing DOC inspections, Laborde said.

“Part of that inspection process is a fire marshal inspection and approval and a Department of Health and Hospitals inspection and approval,” she said. “That’s standard for all local-level facilities that house DOC inmates.”

Those inspections probably will be done within the next two weeks, Laborde said.

The jail already is permitted to house pre-trial detainees, but upon conviction and sentencing, parish authorities must transfer these inmates to state custody, she said.

“The jail currently has seven of those inmates there that could stay there” if the jail passes DOC inspection and is reinstated, Laborde said.

Sheriff Nat Williams said he looks forward to increasing the number of state inmates in the jail, which has a capacity of 76.

“We’ll get more later on, as we get back into swing with the guidelines,” he said.

Williams said reinstatement with DOC will help meet expenses for the jail, which will receive $24.39 per day per DOC inmate, rather than the $3.50 per day received for parish inmates.

“You can’t feed an inmate breakfast for $3.50,” Williams said.

Williams said he has been “fighting with DOC since 2007” to get the jail reinstated to house state inmates.