LIVINGSTON PARISH, LA (WAFB) - A program helping inmates transition back into society after being behind bars, will be moving to a new location and will be open in the summer of 2015.
The Livingston Parish Transitional Work Program has been active and operating out of the Livingston Parish Detention Center for a year and a half. Monday morning, officials broke ground at 28225 Woodside Drive in Walker, LA - next door to the LPSO Training Center and Firing Range.
The program currently uses one cell block within the Livingston Parish Detention Center and has a maximum capacity for 75 inmates.
"A new, larger facility means an opportunity to double the size of the program," said Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard. "Meaning, we can help more offenders. With over 20 years in law enforcement, countless inmates have told me they don't know what they're going to do once they're released. Most had no jobs and in some cases – no housing. Then, within weeks, I'd see those same inmates back behind bars. This program is helping them transition out of the system and into society."
GM Varnado & Sons, a car repair shop in Denham Springs, is one of the businesses that is using inmate labor. Owner Gary Varnado says before Livingston Parish started its program, he was getting workers from the West Baton Rouge program.
"To me it's a good program," Varnado said. "You don't treat them any differently at all. The fact that they're in work release doesn't make them a third class citizen. They're just like me, they just made a mistake."
Varnado says he doesn't mind helping these inmates re-enter society, plus he says they need the labor.
To be eligible for the program, inmates have to be serving time for non-violent crimes and have less than 3-years left on their sentences. The Department of Corrections screens inmates for participation. LPSO also screens and approves inmates in the program.
Warden Burl Cain says says programs like this are part of the 'greater good'. Warden Cain says because of this program, and others like it, there will be less victims.
The Work Release program matches inmates with open positions in Livingston Parish. Currently, more than 60 full-time employed offenders work at 31 different job sites.
Offenders with this program pay for their own housing, food, transportation, medical and clothing costs. Money earned also goes toward child support, fines and any fees owed. They also pay taxes on any fees earned.
Upon release, those in the program have the option of keeping the jobs they have been working.
Paul Perkins, of Louisiana Workforce, LLC, will continue to run the program in Livingston Parish.
Perkins says there are about 1,000 inmates who participate in the work release program statewide.