Are overcrowding jails contributing to Jennings' crime problem? - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Are overcrowding jails contributing to Jennings' crime problem?

by Brandon Richards bio | email

Louisiana State Police have arrested more than 20 people on the south side of Jennings since they started patrolling neighborhoods in the area three weeks ago.

The vast majority of those arrests involved drugs.

While all of this certainly sounds good, a big question remains. How many of those arrested by troopers have already found themselves back on the streets?

It's no secret; both the city and parish jails are in danger of overcrowding. The problem is a lot more serious when you consider the fact that the city transfers some of its inmates to the parish jail from time to time.

Over the last few years, the storage space in the city jail has had to be converted into jail dormitories to house more inmates.

According to Jennings Police Chief Johnny Lassiter, the city jail can hold 40 inmates: five females and 35 males. Lassiter said when the jail is at capacity and more arrests are brought in, he has little choice than to let inmates with less serious crimes back on to the streets.

"If somebody comes in with an aggravated battery charge and we have somebody in jail with a simple battery charge, we'll release the simple battery and bring in the person with the aggravated charge," said Lassiter.

KPLC 7 News obtained the booking reports for the city and parish jails for the month of March and five days in April. The reports do not show which inmates were arrested by state police, but a quick count shows 61 total arrests at the city jail. Nine of those arrests involved drugs.

The city jail report also does not show how many inmates were released, but Lassiter said the jail is at capacity right now.

Over at the parish, the booking report shows dozens of arrests for drugs. At least 20 inmates arrested for drugs were released in the month of March.

Last year, voters rejected a proposal to build a new $12 million dollar jai for the parish, leaving a revolving door between the jail and the streets.

"In a perfect world, we'd have a brand new jail that would house everybody we could ever arrest," said Lassiter.

Copyright 2010 KPLC-TV. All Rights Reserved.

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