Phelps officials scratching heads over reasons for closure - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Phelps officials scratching heads over state's reasoning for closure

DEQUINCY, LA (KPLC) -

A statement from Pam Laborde with the Louisiana Department of Corrections justified the closure of Phelps by calling the facility, "old and inefficient," which was costing taxpayers money to operate, she said.

However, Phelps Warden Robert Henderson, disagrees and boasts an enhanced and modernized prison with no outstanding facility violations as proof.

"The millions dollar ESCO project was a way to minimize operating costs by modernizing the facility," Henderson said.

The project, which kicked off with the assistance from the DOC in May, enhanced the facility with an energy management system, a lighting upgrade, ozone water treatment, water conservation, computer power management and a new state of the art security fencing system.

With some of those improvements taking place just four months ago, the news to close the facility and the supposed reasoning behind it is hard to fathom for the administration and employees at the DeQuincy prison.

"The facility isn't inefficient," said Master Sgt. Felicia Gatlin. "It's not inefficient. That's why it's been around so long."

In addition to improvements to the facility, Phelps was recognized as one of the model facilities in the state in regards to their inmate programs. On Tuesday, just days before the surprise decision, Assistant Warden Jolene Constance was notified by the DOC that PCC is being looked at as a model and that other facilities would be contacting them for guidance on how to run their programs.

"The timing is questionable," said Constance. "But all we can be assured of is that in the time that we had, we helped an inmate. And that is what our programs did."

Officials at Phelps learned Monday morning that the official closure date has been set for Nov. 1. All offenders will have been transferred and the gates will be closed effective that day.

Copyright 2012 KPLC. All rights reserved.

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