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|OCC finances improve|
Ouachita Correctional Center has witnessed an increase in the number of state Department of Corrections inmates house at the parish prison, but OCC needs more of them.
Ouachita Parish Police Jury treasurer Brad Cammack said OCC housed 313 DOC inmates as of April 27.
"Of course, we would love to see it higher than that," Cammack said. "It's doing a little better, but there's still room for improvement with the finances."
The DOC inmate population at OCC fluctuates, Cammack said. He said the parish cannot expect to have as many – 313 -- DOC inmates at OCC on a regular basis. OCC needs to house 400 DOC inmates to place the prison at a near break-even point. The state parish prisons more than $25 per day to house each DOC prisoner.
The parish receives roughly $2.7 million annually from the state to house some 300 DOC inmates.
OCC has a jail population of about 950. The majority of the prisoners are pretrial detainees. The parish is not reimbursed for providing space and care for pretrial detainees.
The large number of pretrial detainees and overpopulation at the parish prison has contributed to a projected $1.2-million deficit in the 2009 fiscal year budget at OCC.
OCC's 2009 fiscal year budget was based on 275 DOC inmates. The 313 DOC inmates currently housed at the prison means the parish will see roughly $335,000 in additional revenue.
"That's a lot of money, so that's good news," Cammack said. "Of course, we worry about the major expenses there, which are the deputies who have to manage the jail and the cost of food and utilities. Those expenses are the ones we have to watch."
Since it costs the parish about $30 a day to house and feed each prisoner, the overall goal is to reduce the number of inmates at the jail or have a higher number of DOC inmates over pretrial detainees.
DOC inmates also can be put to work around the parish. Prisoners currently awaiting trial cannot be forced to work since their cases have not been exercised by the court. The parish basically houses, feeds and takes care of all medical needs of the pretrial detainees.
"They cannot work inside or outside the jail," Cammack explained. "But DOC inmates, we work them throughout the parish and at the jail, so it's not that we want them just for revenue. They are performing various jobs throughout the parish, so there are two good reasons we need the DOC population up."
Cammack said Fourth Judicial District Court judges and District Attorney's Office have done well over the past few months to move pretrial detainees through the judicial system.
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 overcrowding issues at the prison.