Work-release facility now open

Published 12:17 am Friday, September 4, 2009

VIDALIA — What was once a compact, 4,500-square foot building is now a 16,000-square foot, million-dollar facility that houses approximately 200 work-release inmates.

Concordia Parish Sheriff Randy Maxwell gave a tour of the expanded work-release facility to members of the Ferriday Rotary Club Thursday afternoon.

With the exception of the air-conditioning, plumbing and electrical work, work-release inmates completed all of the expansion construction, and Maxwell said the building was completely paid for using capital outlay funds.

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“We did not have to borrow anything,” he said.

All of the former building was converted into a large bunkroom reminiscent of military barracks, something Maxwell said was intentional.

“We try to run this place like the military,” he said.

Seamlessly attached to the sleeping quarters is a sizeable cafeteria, which is attached to what Maxwell described as a state of the art industrial kitchen full of stainless steel.

Pointing to the kitchen, Maxwell said, “People ask where all of your money goes, this is where it goes — kitchens.”

The expanded facility also has a laundry room with several over-under washer-dryer machines.

“We didn’t have washing machines before,” Maxwell’s Administrative Assistant Sandy Burget said. “Before, we had to take them out to (the prison on) Highway 15 to wash their clothes.”

The expansion construction began in July 2008, but was delayed by heavy rains until October, Work Release Director Donald Turnage said.

The sheriff’s office received the occupancy permit for the expanded facility April 1.

“I am proud of all of it,” Maxwell said. “Taking this on is a major project, with all of the rules and regulations you have to follow. It’s a huge project — it’s not like building a shed.”

The work-release program in Concordia Parish was the first of its kind in the state because it wasn’t under direct control of the department of corrections.

It allows non-violent offenders to earn money in preparation for their release. Private businesses hire the inmates, and the inmates check in and out of the facility every morning and evening.

Work-release inmates are ultimately under the supervision of their employers once they are checked out of the facility in the morning, and they pay taxes, child support and any other court-ordered restitution, Maxwell said.

“You don’t have to be there with them every minute,” he said.

Inmates who fail to check in at the end of the day are picked up, removed from the work-release program, given a longer sentence and sent to one of the prison facilities on Louisiana 15, he said.

The work-release inmates also pay — to an extent — for their room and board at the work-release facility, he said.