“Sheriffs are now lobbying Louisiana lawmakers for a $4 per day raise for holding state inmates. The proposed boost would cost the state an estimated $25.8 million a year, but would still leave its rate for housing prisoners at less than half that paid by ICE.” The above quote is from an article written in The Advocate May 9, 2019 by Bryn Stole under the heading “As fewer inmates fill Louisiana jails, wardens turn to immigration officials to fill bunks, budgets”.
A previous article discussed how Gov. John Bel Edwards’ Criminal Justice System overhaul resulted in a decrease in the number of inmates held in Louisiana Department of Corrections (DOC) facilities. This decrease in inmates also means a decrease in funds in the Sheriff’s budgets that are based on keeping the facilities filled.
However, one need not be too concerned for revenue shortfalls – yet - because a temporary golden egg is coming to the rescue under the name of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Realizing this golden egg will possibly shrink like the number of DOC inmates, or in the worst case scenario go away, sheriffs are being proactive and asking lawmakers for a $4.00 a day increase to make up for the money lost because of housing fewer inmates.
Now You Know: The proposal to increase the amount Louisiana pays sheriffs from $24.39 to $28.39 came from Rep. Katrina Jackson, a Monroe Democrat District 16 representing Ouachita (the Richwood area) and Morehouse Parishes.
Now You Know: Stole writes “Prospects for a steady flow of cash motivated town leaders in Richwood to sign off on filling their jail with more than 1,000 ICE detainees early last month.” LaSalle Corrections, a private prison operator headquartered in Ruston, La. where Billy McConnell is managing director, runs the Richwood facility.
“The city government will get a cut of the money paid out by ICE — $1.50 per detainee — for agreeing to the deal, according to local news station KNOE. That adds up to nearly $550,000 per year flowing from ICE into the town’s coffers.”
“I believe that it was a home run. It was a win-win for Richwood,” Alderman Simeon Profit told KNOE after voting in favor of the deal. Mayor Gerald Brown didn’t respond to multiple messages from The Advocate.
“The $1.50 per diem paid in Richwood is ‘very similar to other numbers but not the exact same’ as what LaSalle pays the sheriffs in Jackson and Concordia parishes, said McConnell.” “He declined to share specifics.”
There seems to be a difference, depending on who is doing the calculations, of the annual cost to Louisiana taxpayers to cover the $4.00 per day increase to house prisoners. It appears the cost is between $21 and $25 million to house more than 14,000 state inmates in parish jails.
Whether the cost is $21 or $25 million that’s a big difference from the estimated savings of only $14 million the first year the new prison overhaul was implemented. This appears to leave at least a $7 million gap for the sheriffs.
Now You Know: Next, we will look at the actual increases in the amount approved by the legislature as well as future state projections for the costs of housing and for the number of state inmates in parish jails. Will the sheriffs be asking for another housing increase in the near future to make up for an estimated reduction in DOC inmates and a reduction in their revenue as a result?