This post is about two issues. One is about the relationship between the Louisiana Department of Corrections and parish sheriffs that has resulted in state prisoners being housed in parish jails which in turn means revenue for the sheriffs. It’s a relationship that has whetted the appetite of sheriffs for more power and encouraged them to develop paramilitary operations with the help of state and federal money.
When a convicted rapist being held in the Union Parish jail was allowed into the cell of a 17-year-old girl thought to be high on meth last month and raped her twice, it raised several questions, including:
- How was it that the girl was being held in the proximity of a convicted aggravated rapist?
- Who was the Union Parish Detention Center (UPDC) staff member who admitted Demarcus Shavez Peyton, 28, of Homer, into the cell?
- Who is responsible for operations of the detention center?
While Peyton has since been sentenced to life imprisonment on a separate aggravated rape charge, no answers have been provided to the first two questions but the answer to that last question turned out to be something of a surprise. http://www.knoe.com/home/headlines/Inmate-raped-inside-Union-Parish-Detention-Center-377640971.html
It has been widely reported by the media, including LouisianaVoice, that local sheriffs have come to rely on contracts with the Louisiana Department of Corrections (DOC) to house state prisoners at the going rate of about $25 per prisoner per day. That’s hardly enough to house, feed, educate, and train inmates in a trade as DOC officials like to have us believe they are doing. The harsh reality is that prisoners are simply warehoused. Period. There are no classes, no job training, no counseling. http://mondediplo.com/2013/12/11usprison
A fourth question might be: To what end are sheriffs seeking bigger detention centers to house more prisoners? The answer to that is power. The sheriff is already the most powerful person in any given parish and if he can build detention centers to bring in additional state money to shore up that power, so much the better.
One dirty little secret is that if one sheriff has an abundance of prisoners and the sheriff next door has empty beds, the first sheriff will ship a few to his fellow sheriff so that he can collect his $25 per day payments. Prisoners are moved all around from parish to parish that way. Those beds must be filled.
Instead of classes and counseling, some prisoners are funneled into work-for-profit programs whereby local jails farm out inmates to private firms for menial jobs—another source of income for the sheriffs.
The policy of paying for warehousing prisoners is so lucrative that companies like Corrections Corporation of America of Nashville, the GEO Group of Boca Raton, Florida, and the LaSalle Corrections of Ruston reap millions in profits simply by keeping beds filled.
Union Parish is the exception.
Oh, the Union Parish Detention Center takes full advantage of the glut of state prisoners (Louisiana has the highest prison rate in the U.S. which in turn has the highest rate of incarceration in the world). Of the 277 population of the UPDC, 165 are DOC prisoners.
If that population is maintained at the current rate of pay, that means about $1.5 million per year additional to the Union Parish Police Jury. In other parishes, that money would go to the sheriff.
The UPDC, however, is not run by Sheriff Dusty Gates, so his department does not receive the state funds. The UPDC is unique in that it is not overseen directly by the Union Parish Sheriff, but the police jury. Jail personnel, from top administrators all the way down to the guards, are police jury employees. Not one is a deputy sheriff. That means administrative staff and guards alike do not necessarily have law enforcement experience. One recent UPDC warden, who has since resigned, had no experience in law enforcement.
The facility is run by a commission made up of District Attorney John Belton, Gates, Union Parish municipal chiefs of police, and the police jury with the police jury having actual management responsibilities. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/05/10/how-did-convicted-rapist-gain-access-to-isolation-cell-in-the-union-parish-detention-center-to-rape-teenage-girl-twice/
The Lincoln Parish Detention Center next door was once run in the same manner but operations were soon turned over to LaSalle. When problems were encountered with LaSalle’s management, Sheriff Mike Stone took over operations.
In the entire state, only the UPDC is operated by a commission with no direct management from the sheriff.
DOC has since removed six other female inmates being held at UPDC. http://www.thenewsstar.com/story/news/crime/2016/05/19/doc-pulls-female-inmates-union-parish-detention-center/84626290/
Besides Peyton, also arrested was inmate Darandall Eugene Boyette, 27, of Marion. Boyette, originally incarcerated on home invasion and robbery charges, was also booked for simple escape because he did not have permission to leave his cell. He told officials that he entered the victim’s isolation cell when he found the door was unlocked. Upon entering, he said he witnessed Peyton and the victim having sex. He told authorities it was initially his intention to also have sex with her but that he “had a bad feeling,” and left the cell.
Detention center video confirmed that Peyton entered the cell followed by Boyette who then left the cell.
All of which raises the fifth and sixth questions: Why was Boyette allowed to wander about the jail unattended? He was charged with simple escape; so how was he able to exit his cell in the first place if it was locked as it should have been?
Perhaps, with this latest fiasco, the time has come for the state to take a long, hard look at the practice of shipping inmates off to local jails to fatten the bank accounts of parish prisons and sheriffs’ offices. https://louisianavoice.com/2010/12/13/state-inmate-housing-a-financial-boon-to-local-sheriffs/
The contracts with DOC are helping sheriffs’ offices to beef up their arsenals with expensive and seemingly unnecessary weaponry such as high-powered rifles and Humvees and military equipment previous used in Iraq and Afghanistan. The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, for example recently purchased 558 assault rifles from the Pentagon at discount prices. In that case, the purchases were made with grant money from Congress.
With some of the equipment being more appropriate for war zones, one might understandably feel these purchases in the name of law and order are the moral equivalent of sandblasting a Lays Ruffles potato chip to remove the salt.
Granted, the trend toward purchasing military ordnance may seem far removed from housing state prisoners for a shade under $25 per day, but the influx of easy money has created a hunger for more and bigger firepower by the sheriffs, each hell bent on building a better and more powerful arsenal than the guy in the next parish.
The mentality is fast becoming one of “Send me more prisoners so I can purchase more heavy artillery.”
Meanwhile, the evidence is indisputable that the method of operating the UPDC is untenable and must be changed. It’s inconceivable that a prison of any description should be bereft of law enforcement personnel—from administrators to guards. You simply cannot have untrained, uncertified, inexperienced people running a prison.