Capitol News Service
BATON ROUGE -- A state audit has criticized the Louisiana Department of Corrections for its failure to adequately monitor programs for state prisoners housed in local facilities.
The audit by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor was for Fiscal Year 2009. It also noted that while the number of offenders supervised by probation and parole officers increased over the past five fiscal years, the number of probation and parole officers decreased, creating an even higher average case load, an average that was already higher than nationally recommended standards.
While the audit acknowledged that the Department of Corrections currently saves more than $32 million annually by providing incarceration alternatives, additional cost savings could be realized by using electronic monitoring as an alternative to incarceration for non-violent, non-sexual offenders.
At $42.75 per day, Louisiana had the fourth lowest cost per day for housing offenders during Fiscal Year 2009 among the states in the Southern Legislative Conference, the audit report said.
That could be because 19,651 prisoners are housed in local facilities at a cost to the state of $24.39, a savings of $18.36 per day per prisoner, or 42.9 per cent. That comes to a total savings of more than $360,000 per day.
The downside to the savings, the audit said, is that local jails and not the Department of Corrections make the determination whether an offender is placed in a state correctional facility or in a local jail.
Moreover, the department has no program in place to evaluate the rehabilitation programs offered to its offenders housed in local jails. Nor does the department monitor the progress of offenders in such local programs.
The audit report further said the department, by analyzing recidivism rates by local jails, could better determine which local jails with which to have offender housing agreements.
“Louisiana may be incarcerating offenders longer than necessary based on a grant program that no longer provides the department money and has had no analysis of success,” the audit report said.
That grant program, the Violent Offender Incarceration and Truth-in-Sentencing Incentive Formula Grant Program, was initiated in 1996 and provided states with funding to build or expand correctional facilities or jails.
To be eligible for the grant, a state had to pass laws requiring those convicted of certain violent crimes to serve no less than 85 percent of the imposed sentence.
Before implementation of the grant, Louisiana law required violent offenders to serve at least 75 percent of the sentence imposed before becoming eligible for parole.
In fiscal years 1996 to 1998, Louisiana received $37.8 million from the grant but in fiscal years 2008 to 2009, that amount dropped precipitously to only $739,290. During FY 2010, Louisiana received no money from the grant. “As a result, Louisiana may be incarcerating offenders longer than necessary without receiving any associated benefit,” the report said.
Following is a list of parishes and their jail maximum capacity, followed in parenthesis by the number and percentage of Department of Corrections prisoners housed by the local facility:
Richland Parish Detention Center: 782 (594, 75.9 percent);
Avoyelles Bunkie Detention & Justice Center: 322 (294, 91.3 percent);
Avoyelles Marksville Detention Center: 438 (279, 63.7 percent);
Avoyelles Simmesport Correction Center: 298 (227, 76.2 percent);
Avoyelles women’s Correction Center: 204 (168, 82.3 percent);
Basile City Jail: 6 (2, 33.3 percent);
South Louisiana Correction Center, Basile: 1,017 (157, 15.4 percent);
Evangeline Parish Jail: 72 (30, 41.7 percent);
Ville Platte City Jail: 28 (3, 10.7 percent);
Amite City Jail: 12 (2, 16.7 percent);
Tangipahoa Parish Jail: 526 (253, 48.1 percent);
East Feliciana Parish Prison: 167 (64, 38.3 percent);
St. Helena Parish Jail: 56 (1, 1.8 percent);
West Feliciana Parish Detention Center: 39 (10, 25.6 percent);
West Feliciana Work Release: 216 (129, 59.7 percent);
Acadia Parish Criminal Justice & Detention Center: 294 (110, 37.4 percent);
Rayne City Jail: 14 (4, 28.6 percent);
Vermilion Parish Correction Center: 150 (49, 32.7 percent);
St. Martin Parish Correctional Center I: 186 (15, 8.1 percent);
St. Martin Parish Correctional Center II: 365 (208, 57 percent).
Local housing of state adult offenders accounted for a cost of $181.9 million, or 27.3 percent of the Department of Corrections total budget of $665.9 million.
Parish five-year recidivism rates and their ranking from highest to lowest included:
Vermilion, 50 percent (7th tie);
Acadia, 48.5 percent (12th);
Tangipahoa, 44.2 percent (21st);
St. Martin, 41.4 percent (30th);
Evangeline, 40.7 percent (31st);
Avoyelles, 38.7 percent (36th);
Richland, 36.1 percent (42nd);
East Feliciana, 30.4 percent (52nd tie);
St. Helena, 27.3 percent (56th);
West Feliciana, 14.3 percent (64th).