Jeff Davis officials look to address overcrowding at parish jail

JEFF DAVIS PARISH, LA (KPLC) - Inside the Jeff Davis Parish Jail, it's obvious the building has seen better days.

"Our jail was built in the early 60s. It's an ongoing process with the Police Jury of sewage problems and water leakage. Just this morning, we had a problem with the female cell, it leaked in the courtroom," explained Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff Ivy Woods.

Woods said the jail has a 62-bed facility, four beds per cell, but they can only house four women at any given time.

And they already have a waiting list, "It's constant overcrowding in our jail. We have well over a thousand warrants that need to be issued, but we don't have the facility to put them in," said Woods.

Some areas also double up in their purpose. For instance, the drunk tank also serves as solitary.

Woods said the jail is so overcrowded authorities are having to decide who to keep and who to release. And often, he said, those with lesser offenses are the ones being let out.

"When we do have a violent offender to put in jail, the judge makes the decision and the D.A. on who needs to go, to put the violent offender in jail," said Woods.

That means non-violent offenders are being released without serving jail time.

But there might be a light at the end of the tunnel.

"The Sheriff's Office, along with the Police Jury, are finding ways to fund a facility. We need to find something at least three times the size of our jail now," said Woods.

Although the overcrowding does not compromise security, law enforcement wants to see those who need to be locked up in jail.

"We always have others waiting to be put in," said Woods.

There's a meeting Oct. 17 to decide on funding details for a new jail.

The Police Jury also met Wednesday afternoon and adopted a motion to allocate settlement proceeds from the Thornwell Oil and Gas lawsuit to the future jail project.

Jurors included an amendment though, which states if the funding does not go to the future jail, it will be used to fund road projects.

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