Tour of EBR Parish Prison reveals 'deplorable' conditions

EBR Prison tour shows deplorable condition of facility
(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)
(Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - After a media tour of the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, WAFB reporter Kiran Chawla was able to put her eyes on how deplorable the conditions really are.

Prison officials and city leaders are not on the same page when it comes to trying to privatize the prison.

If you were to take a walk around the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, the first thing that would stick out is the rust everywhere. A majority of the prison dates back to the 1960s, with one building built in the 80s.

"These cells, when they rust, they start to get bad. The parts wear out and once they wear out, we don't use the cell anymore because we can't get the parts anymore," said EBR Parish Prison Warden Dennis Grimes.

Warden Grimes says that's just one issue. He says the showers were built without any ventilation. A working shower is one with a damaged floor and rust taking over everywhere. The sprinklers were built too close to the cells, so inmates have access to them. The ceilings are too low, which makes it difficult to put up cameras. Because rust is everywhere, it creates a safety hazard as well.

"If an inmate rides it enough, and jumps on top, the door will open because of the mechanisms are so bad, and so worn out, and so that poses a security problem for us," said Warden Grimes.

The prison holds 1,594 inmates and is currently over-capacity. Each inmate costs the Sheriff between $50 and $60 per day to house. Because of overcrowding, nearly 700 inmates are shipped out to private prisons in other parishes. The City-Parish picks up that cost at $25 per day, per inmate.

The Warden agrees they are in dire need of a new prison. The City-Parish has looked into the option of privatizing the prison with a company who has already given them a quote to build a new facility for 2,500 inmates.

"The proposed cost for them was about $145 million to build the prison, and it would operate at a cost of about $13 million per year," said Metro Council Member John Delgado.

Councilman John Delgado says a privatized jail would save taxpayer dollars and if a company were to come in to build a jail, it would be more efficient. Delgado also says the Sheriff is a law enforcement officer, not a jailer.

Sheriff Sid Gautreaux was not available for comment, but he and Warden Grimes are against the idea.

"Privatizing is basically warehousing. Here, we're not trying to warehouse people, we're trying to rehabilitate people," said Warden Grimes.

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