Phelps Correctional Center officially closed - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Phelps Correctional Center officially closed

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The prisoners are gone, the buildings are bare. After weeks of anticipation, Thursday marked the day that Phelps Correctional Center in DeQuincy shut its gates for good, leaving the last people standing still reeling over what to do next.

What used to be electronically controlled doors are taped shut. The power is off, barring any access to some of the original buildings that have made up the prison facility since 1957.

"It's very difficult to see the devastation that this has caused" said nine year Phelps employee, Theresa Heard. "Not only for this area but the surrounding areas. You don't want things like this to happen to your family, to your community."

Over the last month-and-a-half, all 900-plus offenders were transported to other state facilities, including Hunt Correctional and the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. Employees like Heard have worked at Phelps for years, but her personal connection to the facility is timeless.  

"My grandfather was one of the original group of men who made this facility possible," said Heard. "This land was purchased by them to be donated to the state so that there would be opportunities for DeQuincy people to always have employment."

With the sudden and unexpected closure, hundreds are out of work, transferring to other facilities or having to take a forced early retirement. Even though Phelps has closed its doors for now, DeQuincy Mayor Lawrence Henagan is not giving up his fight to save the prison and preserve its original mission. 

"The main objective I think is getting back in their jobs ... getting back to work, that's the key to it right now" said Henagan. "I'll be actively pursuing that. I don't know if people in Baton Rouge like to forget about it, but this guy right here isn't forgetting about it."

As he and other Southwest Louisiana legislators work for some answers and solutions for the people affected by the closure, former employees like Heard are left piecing together a new life. 

"I'm not an evil person. I'm not a vindictive person, but for five minutes if Governor Jindal could feel the collective anguish that's in here, the devastation, the shock the fear on people's faces ... it's hard not to cry and I've done a lot of that," said Heard. 

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