Concordia Parish work release facility earns praise

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 12, 2010

VIDALIA — Concordia Parish’s correctional system is a model for how corrections should be done, Louisiana Department of Corrections Chief of Operations Jeffery Travis said.

“I can’t begin to have the words to explain how professional, how clean and how orderly the Concordia Parish correctional system is,” he said.

Travis’ remarks were made Friday morning at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Concordia Parish Work-release facility on U.S. 84.

The $1.6 million facility is completely paid for and was done so at no expense to the taxpayer, Concordia Parish Sheriff Randy Maxwell said.

The sheriff said inmates and the work-release prisoners who would eventually live in it built the facility, leaving only the parts of construction that required a certified professional — such as air-conditioning and electrical work — to be outsourced.

“They were kind of working on their own home, so they had a lot of pride here,” Maxwell said.

Work-release prisoners are allowed to work at local businesses during the day and have to report back to the facility at night. While they do pay for some of the upkeep associated with their incarceration, they are allowed to save the money they earn.

The work-release model — which was pioneered in Louisiana in Concordia Parish — is saving the state approximately $12 million yearly, Travis said.

More importantly, Travis said the work-release model sends a productive citizen back into society.

“We have guys who leave here with $20,000 to $30,000 in their bank account and a job,” Maxwell said. “If you have that, you’re less likely to come back here, less likely to go back to your old ways, which will send you back here.”

By allowing prisoners to work, they are given hands-on training in what is needed to keep working, Travis said.

“They get on-the-job training and are able to develop the soft skills needed to maintain a job,” he said. “Some of these guys might not have had the opportunity to know how to talk to people before, to say, ‘Yes, sir,’ or ‘No, sir.’”

Currently, the Concordia Parish work-release facility houses approximately 225 people, and is utilized by approximately 50 businesses, Maxwell said.

Inmates who have committed certain offenses are not allowed in the work-release program, and those who commit an offense or fail to report back to work-release when they get off work are removed from the program.