Catahoula Corrections Center (CCC) opened in 2000 as a Department of Corrections facility managed by LaSalle Management Company. That changed Monday morning when a bus loaded with detainees was transferred to CCC by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Ninety-six detainees were transported to CCC Monday and another group of ninety-six were brought Tuesday morning.
ICE will now house between 600 and 700 illegal immigrants at Catahoula Corrections Center. DOC inmates will continue to be housed in one dormitory at CCC and in the Catahoula Parish Jail located inside the courthouse. The trustees held in Catahoula parish will continue as work crews for garbage detail, funeral details and courthouse maintenance.
Detainees are held by ICE for many reasons including committing a crime, arriving at the border without a visa prior to formally applying for asylum or refugee status, an outstanding removal (deportation) order on record, and missed prior immigration hearing dates.
Also if any detainee being held for deportation but is eligible to come back to the United States, they are still deported, but ICE helps them get the proper paperwork completed so they can return to the U.S.
Swapping state inmates for immigrants facing deportation is a profitable trade for those that operate local Louisiana prisons. ICE is paying Louisiana jails about $65.00 a day on average for housing detainees. The state DOC only pays $24.39 a day.
The decision to go with ICE had a lot to do with the amount of federal per-diem paid to the prison. The state DOC reimbursement rate has remained the same since 2008 and this was the only way owner Billy McConnell found to get his employees at CCC a much needed increase in wages.
The change has also led to more employees being hired. Medical staff, translators, and more correctional officers were hired to help accommodate ICE detainees.
Sheriff Toney Edwards noted that there is one major drawback for Catahoula parish changing from DOC to ICE is the required transfer of female inmates to Concordia Parish. The transfer resulted in an increase in the daily rate of $15.00 to $24.34 that is paid for by the Police Jury to care for each inmate.
Catahoula Parish Sheriff Toney Edwards plans to use the per-diam increase paid to the Sheriff’s Office from ICE to help offset the increase in the cost of having to house the per-trial female inmates out of parish now. The police jury is responsible for paying for the upkeep of all per-trial inmates. Sheriff Edwards also intends to help take some of the burden off the police jury by working with Concordia Parish to hopefully decrease the daily rate back to $15 that was paid to CCC.
LaSalle Management is a privately-owned prison managed by Billy McConnell. Edwards has been working with McConnell for the past few years to try and get a pay increase for employees. Chief Warden Pat Book will continue to serve at CCC and has been working with Sheriff Edwards to make the transition.