Jeff Davis Parish competing for juvenile detention center

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Officials in Jeff Davis Parish are hoping to bring a new juvenile detention center to Jennings.

A few years ago, the state set aside money to open the facility, which would serve parishes in Acadiana and Southwest Louisiana (except Beauregard and Calcasieu parishes).

The facility would house 72 youth offenders and would focus on rehabilitation by providing therapeutic services. In addition, the adjudicated youth would also have access to education and job training.

"It is my understanding that it is not a prison. It's a therapy center," said Jeff Davis Economic Development Commission Director Marion Fox, who is heading up efforts to bring the facility to Jennings.

"The purpose of this new juvenile justice [center] is to not keep them in the system, but to eventually make them productive citizens," said State Sen. Dan "Blade" Morrish.

Morrish said the facility would house all kinds of juvenile offenders, but that the campus would resemble a community college rather than a typical detention/correctional center. For instance, while it would include a fence, the fence would not include razor wire.

If Jeff Davis were chosen as the location, the facility would most-likely be built on 10-acres of land northwest of Louisiana Oil and Gas Park.

In addition to providing some relief for area jails, which are often overcrowded with juvenile offenders, the facility would provide an economic boost for the home parish. The facility would bring along with it 100 permanent jobs and even more temporary construction jobs.

"A hundred jobs is a lot of jobs in this market," said Fox. "We're going to give it our best shot. We're going to do our best to put everything in the proposal that they are looking for and we hope to be at the top of the list."

Allen Parish is also competing for the facility.

Morrish said he expects there to be a period of time for public comment before a final decision is made.

The Office of Juvenile Justice will review proposals from interested parishes before deciding which one to award the facility to. A decision is expected on June 17th.

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