Will federal halfway house be built in Lacassine?

By Brandon Richards - bio | email

LACASSINE, La (KPLC-TV) – A state lawmaker wants a federal halfway house, which was met with fierce opposition when it was proposed for Lake Charles, to be built in a location outside of Calcasieu Parish.

State Rep. A.B. Franklin (D-Lake Charles) said the Federal Bureau of Prisons should consider building the facility next to The Academy of Training Skills in Lacassine in Jeff Davis Parish.

The Academy is a pretrial diversion program that focuses on rehabilitating first time, nonviolent offenders before they reach the penal system. The 196 men who reside at the Academy hold jobs, attend classes and must pay a $43 fee each day.

The facility sits on South Frontage Road near I-10.

After the proposals for a halfway house in Lake Charles were opposed, Franklin reached out to the owner and founder of the Academy, Lee Mallet.

Mallet said his property would be a good location for a halfway house.

"We're already in operation. We already have 196 people here, operating similar to a halfway house, but we're out in the country," said Mallet. "It's already accredited. It's already DOC approved."

Mallet said it would be easy for him to get the permit to build additional dorms and thinks it's something Community Transitional Services, the contractor who would be operating the halfway house for the Bureau of Prisons, should consider.

"Not that it would cause problems in Lake Charles, but why go through all that when you've already got a facility operating and plenty of space to grow," said Mallet.

Mallet's facility is itself no stranger to controversy.

In 2006, Mallet and the Academy came under intense criticism from citizens in Lacassine, who were worried that the facility was located too close to businesses and homes.

But Mallet said their concerns were proven to be unfounded.

"The things they were concerned about three years ago, never came to pass," said Mallet.

Residents 7 News spoke with in Lacassine on Monday said a halfway house in their backyard would be met with opposition, just like it was in Lake Charles.

The original location for the proposed halfway house was at property on Cline Street in north Lake Charles. This plan was scrapped after citizens and local leaders expressed concerns that the facility was too close to J.J. Johnson Elementary.

It was announced later that the halfway house would be built at a location on Broad Street, but that too is close to a school, Reynaud Middle School.

Franklin and Mallet have both contacted the Bureau of Prisons and Community Transitional Services with their idea, but have received no response.

Franklin has also contacted Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, Congressman Charles Boustany and even spelled out his concerns in a letter to the White House.

Calls left to the Bureau of Prisons for comment on this story were not returned by deadline.

Copyright 2011 KPLC. All rights reserved.