- Associated Press - Thursday, May 1, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux say the state has agreed to give up a portion of the land where the now-closed Jetson Center for Youth used to sit so the sheriff can build a new parish prison.

Gautreaux said one of his last major goals is to build a new prison to replace the aging, dilapidated facility near Metro Airport.

The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/1kwIoWq ) the state has about 800 acres outside of Baker where it operated the Jetson Center for Youth as a secure center for juvenile offenders.

Gautreaux said he and Lt. Col. Dennis Grimes, warden of the Parish Prison, have been in talks with an architect to begin drawing up plans for a new Parish Prison.

Gautreaux said he hopes to begin construction within a year.

“The state’s already told us they would give us the property out at Jetson,” Gautreaux said.

However, Greg Dupuis, a spokesman with the state Division of Administration, which handles state land transfers and sales, said they have no formal commitment in place with the Sheriff’s Office.

“The administration is always happy to work with the sheriff,” Dupuis added.

But one thing that is not debatable is the need for a new Parish Prison and a proper mental health wing to house the growing number of mentally ill people arrested each day.

Major plumbing and ventilation issues plague the prison, which was built in 1965 and gained additional wings and a central booking area in 1987.

Warden Grimes said the metal water pipes rust, causing them to fall apart and become easy targets for inmates looking for weapons in the cracked walls. He also said ventilation problems inside the facility are hard to fix.

Grimes said they house about 1,500 prisoners, which is the prison’s maximum operating capacity.

More than 600 prisoners are housed at other facilities outside the parish at a cost of about $6 million annually, Gautreaux said.

The proposed prison would be able to hold about 2,500 prisoners with the possibility to expand to about 3,000 if needed, Grimes said.

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

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