Council updated on local youth detention center
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 25, 2012
By ROBIN SHANNON
VACHERIE – St. James Parish President Timmy Roussel offered another update to parish council members on the fate of state legislation pertaining to operations at the St. James Youth Detention Center.
Roussel said state Rep. Clay Schexnayder requested a meeting to discuss the legislation and other matters pertaining to operations at the detention center. Roussel said he has also met with detention center employees to keep them updated on the fate of the facility.
The state recently shifted operations duties for juvenile facilities from the Office of Juvenile Justice to the Department of Children and Family Services. The shift comes with a set of new licensing requirements for facility operation that must be in place by 2013.
A recent review of operations at the St. James detention center showed a lack of compliance in a host of structural and administrative areas, including separate buildings and gender specific guards for male and female occupants, as well as additional guards for overnight operations. The parish had requested a two-year extension on the licensing deadline. A state Senate committee recently approved a six-month extension.
In addition, the parish also asked the Legislature to approve a bill that would create a multi-jurisdictional board of commissioners to support and promote operations at the St. James Detention Center. The 10-member board would include members selected by the governing bodies, sheriffs and district attorneys in each parish served by the detention center, as well as judges handling juvenile cases in those parishes. The St. James Juvenile Detention Facility serves 25 jurisdictions across six neighboring parishes that include St. John and St. Charles parishes.
Roussel said that bill is also progressing through the Senate but added he has been in contact with officials in Pointe Coupee, West Baton Rouge and Iberville parishes, who also want to be involved in support of the facility.
“This will no longer be a St. James facility,” Roussel said. “It will be a multi-parish facility that will be run by multiple entities.”
Roussel told the council the detention facility is undergoing some building maintenance in advance of a meeting with DCFS and the Office of Juvenile Justice that will be held at the jail. He said much of the main building has been repainted, and work has been done to clean some of the exterior portions of the facility.
“DCFS wants to give it a look so that they can give further recommendations on what the parish needs to do to bring the facility up to compliance with the new rules,” Roussel said.
The facility has a current staff of 42. Roussel said about 30 children presently occupy the center, which has a maximum capacity of about 40.