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|DOC prisoners generate money for OCC|
The deficit at Ouachita Correctional Center is looking a little better as more state Department of Corrections inmates have been housed at the prison as of late, fueling a spike in revenue for jail operations.
Ouachita Parish Police Jury treasurer Brad Cammack said Monday the parish received more DOC revenue (in fiscal year 2008) than originally anticipated. A month ago OCC officials, as well as the police jury, believed the deficit in OCC's fund balance would total almost $600,000. The additional DOC revenue means that deficit would total roughly $540,000 for the 2008 fiscal year.
"We're getting close to wrapping up that (2008) fiscal year, and now it looks like we are about $28,000 better," Cammack said.
He said the increase in DOC revenue was a move in the right direction. He credited work by the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office, Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office and 4th Judicial District Court judges in reducing the number of pretrial detainees at the jail. OCC does not collect additional revenue for housing pretrial detainees.
"The DA, sheriff and judges have been working to reduce pretrial detainees so they can increase the number of DOC inmates," Cammack said. "They did that in January and February … They've been working hard at this, and it looks like it's paid off."
In December, OCC housed almost 1,000 prisoners. That number has been reduced to less than 900.
Overcrowding at OCC has been an issue for a number of months. Another problem with the overcrowding is the majority of prisoners were pretrial detainees, meaning OCC was not collecting money from DOC.
The parish receives $2.7 million annually to house more than 300 DOC inmates, which currently are being housed at the jail. Cammack said OCC would be better off financially if it housed 400 DOC inmates.
The large number of pretrial detainees and overpopulation at the parish prison have contributed to a projected $1.2 million deficit in the 2009 fiscal year budget at OCC.
"One of the goals is to maintain a higher ratio of DOC prisoners to the overall (prison) population," Cammack said.
Cammack also said the fewer number of people incarcerated at OCC means the parish would spend less money on manpower to guard prisoners. A smaller population of prisoners also would reduce the amount the parish spends on food and other items required to house inmates, Cammack said. The parish spends nearly $1 million annually on food for prisoners at OCC.
Last year, the parish paid roughly $665,000 for utilities at the jail. That was an increase from $539,000 in 2007.
The police jury will continue to monitor the financial situation at OCC on a monthly basis as it works to find a long-term solution to the overcrowding issue at the jail, according to Cammack.