Jail construction under way

Facility to hold inmates, housing, training center

By this time next year, the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office plans to move its “road crew inmates” and those in work release and rehabilitation programs from its downtown jail and annex into its public safety complex now under construction on West Willow Street, Rob Reardon, corrections director, said.

“This will give us additional flexibility and additional space to some degree downtown,” Reardon said.

The downtown jail was constructed more than 20 years ago for about 380 inmates, but more than 950 inmates were at the jail as of Friday, he said.

Road crew inmates are lower-security inmates who work in crews under the supervision of deputies, Reardon said.

“We have 110 inmates coming out a day,” Reardon said. “That’s a lot of traffic. Moving them here will minimize the impact downtown.”

The public safety complex sits on 29 acres and will house several buildings, including a 31,285 square foot secure housing facility for 216 inmates. Another building will serve as transitional housing, providing 320 beds for those in work release, rehabilitation and re-entry programs.

A third building will house training and inmate video visitation services, both of which are housed in old school sites. A warehouse on the property will serve as a processing center for offenders and will house other services such as laundry and supplies.

A grove of oaks on the property will be developed into a public park.

Construction on the $24 million project began about six months ago and is expected to be complete by July, said Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Capt. Colby Barbier, the project manager.

The project was funded by a bond sale and the debt will be repaid by an existing parishwide millage.

Ratcliff Construction is the project’s contractor, and the complex was designed by Grace & Hebert Architects.

Barbier said inmate labor will be used for painting, landscaping and sidewalk construction on the project to help reduce costs to the taxpayer.

Inmates likely will not move on site until November to allow time to train personnel working in the new, secure facility, which incorporates a direct supervision style of inmate management, Barbier said. In direct supervision, barriers between correctional deputies and the inmates they manage are removed.

The secure facility was designed so the inmates are supervised in common areas, with no glass or doors to separate them from deputies.

At least one section of the downtown jail was renovated a few years ago to implement direct supervision.

Reardon said Friday that there are no plans to expand the direct supervision management style to other areas of the jail.

The site will also be the new home to the Sheriff’s Office’s training programs, now housed in a former school on St. Antoine Street that is leased from the school system. A new training facility has several classrooms and multi-purpose space that can transition into smaller or larger rooms.

“One of the requirements the sheriff gave us was to make sure it was flexible for our use, but also for future use,” Reardon said.

The buildings are positioned on the property to enable expansion — which isn’t an option for the landlocked downtown jail, he said.