$11.5 million jail expansion complete

Allison B. Hudson
Visitors tour the jail including a display of crime-fighting equipment.

The Ascension Parish Jail has a new addition to its facility that was unveiled Friday.

The 308-bed expansion came in around $11.5 million, finishing about $1 million under budget, Warden Bobby Webre said.

The 25,000 square-foot facility will double the capacity of inmates.

“This is an historic day for us in the jail system,” said Sheriff Jeff Wiley. “This facility is here not because we want it, but because society demands it.”

The expansion follows a traditional style dorm look, with approximately 75 beds in each of the four rooms, benches for leisure activities, and tables to eat meals,  all taking place within the one room. Inmates will also be able to make collect calls within the rooms, and video visitation is allowed in the rooms as well.

The rooms are equipped with lockers for storage of inmate personal items, and an outside court for recreation time.

Inmates will have the luxury of enjoying cable television, which is provided free of charge from Cox Communications, said Webre.

Wiley said that the much-needed facility was financed without additional taxes, with the under budget money going toward the bonded indebtedness. Wiley said parish government issued $12.5 million in revenue bonds to fund the expansion project.

“I don’t think anyone expected this to be done by March,” said Parish President Tommy Martinez.

“This expansion will allow us to bring women prisoners back from St. Charles Parish that will allow us to save money,” Wiley said.

The sheriff said his office will share revenue with parish government that comes from housing state and federal prisoners.

Wiley said he expects to house a minimum of 100 state and federal prisoners. That revenue will be shared with parish government on a 50-50 basis after expenses, he said.

Wiley also added that the state pays $24.39 a day for each state prisoner the parish incarcerates, and the federal government pays $38 a day for each of its prisoners housed in Ascension.

Webre said the jail can now house 564 prisoners, ensuring that every inmate will have a bed.

In past years only two jails have been built in Ascension and two expansions have taken place since the first jail was built 141 years ago.

“We had to do something about the jail being overcrowded,” said Parish Councilman Kent Shexnaydre. “We thought of several other ways we could expand before spending the money, and it just came down to having to fund the project.”

Some of the 308 beds in a new wing of the expanded jail.