Prison Privatization Debate Erupts in Louisiana

PINEVILLE, La. — Central Louisiana lawmakers will support corrections workers in their fight to keep area prisons from privatizing, state Rep. Robert Johnson told a gathering in Pineville recently.
More than 100 people gathered at Kees Park, many of them employees at Avoyelles Correctional Center or J. Levy Dabadie Correctional Center, to hear Johnson pledge support for them from Central Louisiana’s legislative delegation.
“There is not one of us that doesn’t favor keeping your jobs here, keeping our prisons owned by the state and keeping the state running those prisons,” Johnson said. “You’ve got my voice, and you’ve got all of the Central Louisiana delegation with you on this.”
The state Department of Public Safety and Corrections announced plans in February involving several area prisons.
The plans involve turning over operations at Dabadie Correctional Center in Pineville to a private entity, selling Avoyelles Correctional Center in Cottonport and turning its operations over to a private entity and selling Allen Correctional Center in Kinder and Winn Correctional Center in Atlanta, which are privately run.
Workers at Dabadie were also told recently that the facility’s capacity could be reduced by 580 inmates, which would eliminate jobs.
Critics of the plan say it will not save the money projected by department and Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office. They contend it will impact public safety because workers will receive less training and offenders will not have access to the same programs. They argue the plan will weaken local economies because private companies will pay lower salaries and benefits than the state.
“There have been some mistakes made by the Jindal administration,” Johnson said. “But this idea of selling state services is about the worst. This plan doesn’t make economic sense. The savings are not necessarily there.”