Parish President Kenny Matassa made the request after the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office indicated there is a shortage of space at the parish jail due to a high influx of female inmates awaiting trial. He said the agreement will allow the parish to house up to 20 female inmates at CCC for a cost of nearly $25 per day.

The Ascension Parish Council voted at the June 7 meeting to enter a cooperative endeavor agreement with Catahoula Correctional Center to house some Ascension inmates at the jail in the neighboring parish. A recent uptick in the jail population has led to overcrowding in the parish facility.

Parish President Kenny Matassa made the request after the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office indicated there is a shortage of space at the parish jail due to a high influx of female inmates awaiting trial. He said the agreement will allow the parish to house up to 20 female inmates at CCC for a cost of nearly $25 per day.

"Historically we have never had over the capacity of women in our jail, which is 48," said Matassa. "We had 63, so I don't have to tell y'all that we can get in trouble for over housing."

Council members had questions about the spike in the female jail population and what kinds of crimes these women had committed. Matassa said he suspects drug problems have been behind much of the arrests as of late. He said mental health experts are working with the sheriff's office in the jail to address the issues.

"Whatever we can do, we will," said Matassa. "If we need another counselor, we'll do that. It's just something that's jumped up, and I don't know why it's that many."

Councilman Travis Turner clarified that the inmates in the parish jail have not been sentenced yet. He said they have simply been arrested and are awaiting their bond hearing. He had questions about the bonds being set and whether or not the inmates are able to make bail.

Councilwoman Terri Casso echoed that sentiment saying more information is needed so the parish can find the best way to address the overpopulation in the jail.

"We need to understand what this population looks like so that we can evaluate this as we move forward," said Casso.

Matassa said his office would get more information on the women and their bail. He noted this agreement is not something the parish will be locked into, but rather it is a short term solution to the immediate problem.

Members discussed the possibility of using ankle bracelets as opposed to keeping the inmates behind bars before their trial. But the cost of implementing that system could be even greater than the cost of keeping them in jail. The parish is working to find the most cost effective solution while finding ways to address the underlying problem.

Parish attorney O'Neil Parenton reminded the council that the parish has the obligation to provide jail space for anyone who is arrested in the parish. He said the cooperative endeavor agreement is needed to make sure the parish has adequate space for inmates.

"This is just an overflow because if they're arrested and need jail, we don't have the choice to release them, and you have an obligation to provide a jail cell for them," said Parenton.

Councilman Daniel Satterlee asked about the penalty if the parish did not take immediate action to resolve the problem. He noted the fines for overcrowding the jail could far surpass the cost to house inmates at another facility. Parenton said the parish could be sued to provide jail space.

"The sheriff operates the jail, but it's the parish government's responsibility to provide a jail," said Parenton.

The motion passed without opposition. Some inmates will be housed at CCC as the parish works to find long term solutions to the problem. The parish president is expected to provide additional details about the jail population and their charges at a later date.

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