- Associated Press - Monday, February 24, 2014

COVINGTON, La. (AP) - Louisiana Department of Corrections officials have conducted a shakedown raid at a Covington work-release facility that houses state inmates.

The facility’s director said 19 inmates were sent back to St. Tammany Parish Jail for violating state regulations.

Director Lester Mitchell said Sunday morning’s shakedown was the second at the facility in the last two weeks.

Northshore Workforce Solutions, the privately owned company that runs the program, has been the subject of recent reports by WWL-TV and The New Orleans Advocate (http://bit.ly/1o0uqey ) that have focused on allegations of lax oversight at the facility, including two drug-related deaths of inmates.

Sunday’s search turned up drug screening violations and contraband.

“During this morning’s search every participant in the facility was drug screened and every inch of the facility was searched physically and with K-9 drug dogs,” Mitchell said in an email.

The items of contraband were two cellphones and a small amount of what appeared to be synthetic marijuana, Mitchell said.

“No Northshore Workforce owner, management or staff were aware of either inspection until the Sheriff’s Office and Department of Corrections arrived at the facility,” he said. “Northshore Workforce is committed to the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Corrections and following the regulations they set.”

Northshore Workforce Solutions is a transitional work-release program that allows inmates nearing the end of their sentences to work at regular jobs while still spending the night confined in the facility. The company was formed in 2008 by private businessmen who have ties to St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain.

The program gets a share of the per-diem allowance paid to the sheriff by the state for each inmate and also keeps 62 percent of their wages or $63.50 a day, whichever is less.

Sunday’s raid involved about 40 officers, including those from DOC and the Department of Probation and Parole, Mitchell said.

Sheriff’s Office spokesman George Bonnett said deputies also were involved.

Asked whether Strain considered the high number of violations found an indication that there are management problems at the facility and whether he plans any action, Bonnett said, via text message, “It was a coordinated effort to ensure full compliance at the facility.”

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Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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