The soon-to-be-closed prison at DeQuincy in southwest Louisiana is named for the late C. Paul Phelps, the state’s longtime head of corrections and a fervent advocate of rehabilitation.
If inmates are not given skills and education in prison, of course, they are prone to return to criminal activity once their sentences are over.
The DeQuincy prison was a low- to medium-security facility that pushed rehabilitation and job training for its inmates. By order of Gov. Bobby Jindal, the facility will be closed in November. Inmates will be moved to either the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola or Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel.
Legislators and other public officials in Calcasieu Parish are furious, saying they had little notice of the idea of closing Phelps, and lawmakers approved funding for the prison this summer. It is part of a steadily deteriorating relationship between the governor and the Legislature, hitherto basically supine when it comes to challenging Jindal.
Jindal said the move will save money, but we wonder if a facility that has at least a reasonable chance of discharging inmates with job skills does not save the state more money than warehousing prisoners at a lower per-day cost.
Louisiana is tops in the nation in incarceration, and probably no large province in the civilized world matches our rate per capita. Across the political spectrum, there is a rising concern, not about the per-day cost of gruel in state prisons, but the long-term costs of failing to save those prisoners who can be saved, and having them enter the work force better able to function and thus contribute to society.
That might be the real long-term cost of the Phelps closure, and that of other smaller prisons in the state.