Between the Bars: Guards call Allen Correctional Center unsafe, understaffed

Between the Bars: Guards call Allen Correctional Center unsafe, understaffed

Employees have called Allen Correctional Center understaffed, ill-equipped, and unsafe in recent months. Dozens of calls, emails, and social media messages have been sent to we, demanding an investigation into the state-owned facility.

Allen Correctional houses 1,345 inmates, according to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DPS&C). The facility is currently transitioning from a prison to a jail - and in August, 80 employees were laid off.

"Recent legislative budget cuts forced the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections to scale back Allen Correctional Center, which meant the elimination of mental and medical health services, and instructional programs at the facility," said Ken Pastorick, communications director.

The cuts have left many guards feeling vulnerable.

"We're outnumbered," said a current employee.

We interviewed two guards who currently work at Allen Correctional. In separate interviews, their stories and complaints were very similar.

When asked if he/she felt safe going to work, one guard responded "not at all."

These two employees, say at times it's two guards for a unit of nearly 300 inmates.

"We don't have handcuffs. We don't have spray. We don't have anything," said one employee, "All we have is a radio on our hip, and half the time we don't even have that."

According to these employees, the lack of proper equipment isn't just a safety concern, but also a health hazard.

"Often times, we don't have gloves; we don't have sanitizer; sometimes, we don't have soap," said one employee.

Dozens of claims have been made to our newsroom regarding an increase in contraband - weapons and drugs. Meanwhile, some guards said security continues to decline.

"The inmates mess with the cameras and they are not seen about," said one guard, "They'll point the cameras at the ceiling, and we can't see what's going on on their tier and no one comes fix them."

Bed books detailing which inmates should be where are often incorrect, according to some employees, making their job of keeping up with inmates nearly impossible.

We're told in one instance that an inmate committed suicide, yet remained on the books.

"A guy did commit suicide," said the corrections officer, "but I found out that they kept him on the books for at least two weeks."

They said it's a corrupt environment few are willing to work in.

"You feel like your employer doesn't care about your life; they don't care about you at all," an employee said.

We reached out to the company in charge of operations at Allen Correctional, hoping to discuss these issues. Without hearing details of employees' claims, GEO Group Vice President of Corporate Relations Pablo Paez denied the allegations. He said his company couldn't comment on operational matters and said our questions would be best answered by the state department.

We then posed the same questions to DPS&C. Ken Pastorick said while the state owns Allen Correctional and investigates any complaints, they aren't aware of the issues employees claim. He then said our questions should be directed to GEO Group.

As complaints continue to pour into our newsroom, safety regarding weapons made or brought into the jail has been a top concern among inmates and employees.

"They do shake downs, they find 11, 12, 13 homemade shanks and by the next day, some one is in the hospital," said a guard.

One inmate sent messages to his loved one, saying weapons are everywhere and inmates "have knives, real knives." Some guards have reported the same.

"Unbelievable how much stuff is getting in. I mean... one of the incidents a few weeks ago, a guy was stabbed with a knife off the street. How'd he get it? This wasn't a homemade shank it was a knife off the street," said the guard.

Tuesday, September 13, DPS&C responded to our special report:

The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections has not received any recent complaints from Allen Correctional Center staff. If employees have concerns, Secretary James M. Le Blanc encourages them to contact Department of Corrections' headquarters with these concerns immediately. These concerns will be referred to and reviewed by the investigations staff at headquarters. The Louisiana Department of Corrections takes very seriously the safety and welfare of all corrections officers, staff, and state offenders in facilities around the state. The Department performs routine and annual inspections of all facilities housing state offenders. In addition, at facilities housing state offenders, the Department performs unannounced shakedowns, monitoring, and requires these jails/prisons to meet or exceed the state's Basic Jail Guidelines, which details the minimum state operational standards for facilities housing state inmates.

The DPS&C Headquarters can be reached at (225) 342-6740.