Women’s jail could open this week in Terrebonne

Fire marshal approval and a few other details are all that stand in the way of Terrebonne Parish’s plans to house female jail inmates in a separate building from men, following floor-to-ceiling renovation of the former juvenile detention center.

Up to 130 inmates can be held at the 3181 Grand Caillou Road venue, where Sheriff Jerry Larpenter, Parish President Gordon Dove and other officials cut a ceremonial ribbon last week. The green light could come as soon as the end of this week, Larpenter said.

About 80 women currently held at the main jail – adjacent to the new facility – and will be moved once that happens.

Larpenter said that will significantly take the pressure off the staff at the main jail, which currently houses 850 inmates, women included.

“It will be a lot easier to have the females kept separately,” Larpenter said, noting also that simple mathematics show the capacity benefits.

Using inmate labor, Larpenter kept the cost of renovation down to about $150,000. The women’s jail has new floors, new room configurations and state-of-the-art technology that will allow jail-to-home video visits.

Dove said the sheriff will operate the jail while the parish – which owns the buildings – will be responsible for upkeep and maintenance.

“We worked in conjunction with Jerry to remodel the building,” Dove said. “As crime increases you need more space, it’s a shame but you need more space for jails and can only put so many people into so many cells. This is an expansion that the little bit of money we are going to spend is a savings, where building a new facility like this would cost $15 million.”

The parish will also operate the medical section of the women’s jail, as it does for the main facility at Ashland.

The new jail will include a sewing room, where inmates will repair clothing and mattresses. The jail uses a dormitory system primarily, with individual confinement cells built in as well for situations where isolation is needed.

Larpenter said the jail is also licensed to provide limited rehabilitation services for inmates with substance abuse problems. A law library and regular reading library are also on the premises.

Currently, Terrebonne Parish has limited misdemeanor admissions to its jail, accepting all felony arrests, as well as DWI and domestic violence arrests. Other misdemeanor admissions are on a case-by-case basis, depending on room.

Larpenter said the new jail will allow administrators greater flexibility in cases where jailing for a misdemeanor pending posting of bond is desirable.

“This place was a mess, it was in horrible shape,” Larpenter said of the physical plant he was first confronted with. As many as 50 inmate worked on the project. The parish’s juvenile detention center is in a new building in Gray, a project begun under the administration of former parish president Michel Claudet.

As is currently the case at the main jail, most of the women who will be housed at the new one have not been convicted of the crimes they are charged with.

They are housed in the jail if they cannot make bond or have not had a bond set. ∙

Women’s Jail