- Associated Press - Monday, May 12, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana’s corrections secretary says he will require bidding for private contracts to run parish work-release programs.

Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc said a recent controversy in St. Tammany Parish convinced him a better selection process is needed, The New Orleans Advocate (https://bit.ly/1skiJ4F ) reported.

“We will give them a format to use,” LeBlanc said. “There will be points for experience, points for the per-diem cost. You’ll have oral interviews. It’ll be a real formal process. We need to do that.”

Sheriff Jack Strain shut down the program run by Northshore Workforce LLC - run by Strain’s campaign treasurer and a group of political supporters - after some inmates escaped and others died. One inmate escaped and allegedly kidnapped and raped his former girlfriend after she called Northshore to report that he had texted her, saying he was coming after her.

Reports by The New Orleans Advocate and WWL-TV also exposed favoritism toward certain contractors and lax supervision of inmates.

The state Inspector General’s Office is investigating Northshore.

For now, LeBlanc said, he’s in no hurry to start another work-release program in St. Tammany Parish. “I think we need to let things settle down and see what’s what,” he said.

In the meantime, LeBlanc said the Department of Corrections is pioneering his proposed reform with its first-ever request for proposals for a work-release program.

The program will be at Phelps Correctional Center, which the state closed in 2012. The plan calls for a 300-bed facility that will allow inmates in DeQuincy to learn marketable skills while taking part in the industrial boom starting to take shape in that region.

Proposals are due Tuesday. A half-dozen interested firms, as well as representatives of the Beauregard Parish Sheriff’s Office, turned up at a pre-bid conference in April, LeBlanc said. The DOC will rank proposals on four factors: Cost per inmate per day is weighted most, followed by “technical approach,” qualifications of vendors and use of subcontracting firms owned by military veterans.

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

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