Livingston jail inmates join work release program

A work-release program for jail inmates being undertaken by Livingston Parish should reduce recidivism and provide needed funds for jail security, Sheriff Jason Ard said Thursday.

Eventually, the program will free more space in the parish jail and make it less likely for the parish to have to pay to house Livingston inmates in other jails, he said.

The program will be a partnership between the Sheriff’s Office and Louisiana Workforce LLC, which already operates work-release programs in East Baton Rouge and several other parishes, Ard said.

The program will start within two weeks, once the Livingston Parish Detention Center is set up to separate the work-release inmates from other inmates in the facility, said Paul Perkins, owner of Louisiana Workforce.

The program initially will employ 45 to 50 inmates at four companies, Perkins said.

Ard said he expects the numbers to grow.

The Sheriff’s Office plans to build a separate facility to house work-release prisoners and pay for it with proceeds from the program, Ard said.

He said he hopes to see construction start later this year.

That facility would be operated by Louisiana Workforce and probably will be located next to the Sheriff’s Office’s training center on Woodside Drive near Walker, the sheriff said.

That will open beds in the parish jail, reducing the likelihood that Livingston Parish would have to arrange for the costly housing of some of its prisoners at jails in other parishes, Ard said,

The program also will help to pay for more corrections officers assigned to the jail, he said.

“We’re understaffed big-time,” Ard said.

Of the 583 inmates in the jail Thursday, 162 are charges of the Louisiana Department of Corrections, which pays the Sheriff’s Office about $25 a day per DOC inmate. Ard said that helps the parish pay for corrections officers at the jail.

A portion of those inmates will be the ones allowed into the work-release program, which will pay the Sheriff’s Office better than the state pays, Ard said.

He said the payment amount is in the process of being finalized between the company and the Sheriff’s Office.

The only cost to the Sheriff’s Office would be erecting the building to house the work release inmates. Louisiana Workforce will pay rent on that building to the Sheriff’s Office, Perkins said.

Inmates pay room and board of up to 62 percent of their salaries, and DOC pays $13.39 a day for each prisoner.

That money will be divided between Louisiana Workforce and the Sheriff’s Office, Perkins said.

That will result in “good revenue for the Sheriff’s Office,” revenue for the company, a reduction in prisoner costs for DOC, and money in the pockets of inmates, Perkins said.

From the money they make, inmates can pay child support and garnishments as well as send money to help their families, he said.

Inmates in such programs often get out of prison with money, a job, work skills and a work ethic, Perkins said.

Ard said achieving inmate rehabilitation is his main reason for starting the program.

When he worked as a corrections officer, he saw too many prisoners get out of jail without money or a job and return to jail a few weeks later, Ard said.

“I don’t want to see them come back,” Ard said.

Work release inmates would be hired as cooks, construction workers, carpenters and welders, Perkins said.

Louisiana Workforce currently has about 900 prisoners working across the state. The company daily drops the workers off at their places of employment and picks them up when their work is done.

To be eligible for the program, an inmate must have less than three years left on his sentence and must go through an extensive screening program, Ard said.