Submitted by B. Charles Goodwin
We are pleased that the Sheriff Smith says he has already made adjustments to “keep on keeping on” in the event the jail tax does not pass. He has reduced personnel and he says this will not affect day-to-day public safety of the parish. He has also said some of these reductions were for “Non Essential” personnel. He has outsourced certain functions and obtained a 50% reduction from in-house costs. He has rolled up mileages to bring in revenue that helps cushion potential loss of sales tax revenues. So we thank the Sheriff for that.
We remember that the Sheriff said during his campaign that he would not need nor seek tax increases, because there were so many savings to come simply from cutting out the waste. We at CCST prefer that he continue to cut out waste rather than just renewing taxes that the Sheriff said were not needed. Further, when studying prison and recidivism issues, we came across some interesting information. Some of these are:
Sheriffs are generally not trained in running prisons or recidivism programs. That’s a specialty unto itself. In fact, the US Department of Justice wrote a scathing review in 2011 under Jack Strain’s watch about the “inhumane conditions” at the jail, and “the lack of recidivism programs” or even training to help identify inmates at risk of suicidal. Jack Strain was a well-experienced Sheriff, but he was not trained in prison management, just as Randy is not trained to run prisons or recidivism programs either.
Our studies showed several clear facts of life – namely
that prisons should be run by people who have training to run prisons. That recidivism programs should be run by people who have training in recidivism programs, such as drugs, alcohol, PTSD, family relations, job skills, etc. None of these exists at the current facility.
STP existed for decades quite well with just a jail rather than a prison. It was not until 2008 that it was expanded in size to a prison, with intentions to make money, but without the capabilities or programs or staffing or management of a prison. If it were making money, it would have no need for a tax subsidy.
Hence, the jail should be used for its intended purpose to house people who are awaiting trial, or short-term sentences. We are all for a jail, but not a prison.
Next, the need for facilities to house inmates is clearly on the decline. Inmate populations in Louisiana have decreased over 6,844 just from 2012 to 2017. These declines will continue with the demand for reduced (common sense) sentences for non-violent crime and first-time offenders. Taking heads-of-household wage earners away from providing for their families is a burden that the public is no longer willing to bear – and needlessly increases the need for welfare programs to take the place of family earners.
State prisons are better equipped with educated staff, better funding, and proven programs, with proven results that even exceed the “Specialty Courts” and make useless the inadequate or nonexistent programs at local jails. The Legislative “stroke of the pen” can allow the State prisons to extend their programs to those outside their own prison system.
While Specialty Courts are better than jails, and the State Dept of Corrections is better than the Specialty Courts, and if reduced recidivism is the goal, then let’s get the biggest bang for our buck by going with the best that we have, and we’re already paying, for instead of paying double taxation for less effective programs.
A review by The Louisiana Public Health Institute and the National Council for Behavioral Health partnered with the St Tammany Behavioral Health Task Force and produced a 72-page report about “transforming” St Tammany Health Services. This underscores our belief that while the Specialty Courts are better than the jail, the Louisiana Correctional facilities is better, and is the best we have, and we should use their expertise far more often than we are.
– B. Charles Goodwin, Mandeville