JEFF DAVIS PARISH, La. (KLFY) — Felony suspects in Jennings are not being booked in the Jeff Davis Parish jail, according to the Jennings mayor.
He says Jennings deserves a better approach to keep these people off the streets and out of their neighborhoods.
The Jeff Davis Parish Sheriff’s Office says the COVID-19 pandemic is what’s causing the problem.
The sheriff’s office says when felony suspects are arrested and booked into this jail, they first have to quarantine alone in a cell for ten days.
The problem is the number of quarantine cells are limited.
“If all ten of those isolation cells are full, then we can’t accept a prisoner,” Chief Deputy Chris Ivey with the Jeff Davis Parish Sheriff’s Office said.
He says it’s not an ideal situation, but with CDC and the Department of Correction’s guidelines, it’s what they have to do to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the jail.
“It’s not something that we want to do because if they’re out committing crimes, we don’t want to let them go because they’re going to continue to commit them,” he added.
Ivey says so far, the quarantine cells have worked to stop COVID-19.
They’re one of the only jails in the state who haven’t had an inmate outbreak.
He says he understands though, how the new regulations can cause issues for cities like Jennings, who don’t have their own jail.
“That’s one of the issues that Jennings has. They don’t have that opportunity to hold a prisoner in their own jail until we can take them,” Ivey told News Ten.
He says it’s not a problem for other cities like Welsh, Lake Arthur, and Elton because they do have jails, where they can hold inmates.
With a city as big as Jennings, booking inmates into the parish jail can quickly become overwhelming. he says.
The Jeff Davis Parish Jail holds 180 inmates.
In Jennings alone, they’ve had 488 felony suspects they needed to book into the jail since the pandemic began.
“We’re doing our best to try to keep the parish safe. The sheriff wants this to be a safe place for everyone to live, and we definitely want to put criminals in jail,” Ivey said.
“Unfortunately, there are these new guidelines from the DOC and the CDC and the issues with the pandemic and things that are out of our control,” he added.
He says when the pandemic ends, they will not need to quarantine inmates anymore, which should fix the problem.
They just don’t know when the end of the pandemic will be.
The sheriff’s office says if the jail doesn’t have a quarantine cell open to hold a felony suspect, they’re issued paperwork, a citation, and will show up to their court date.
If the suspect is violent, they try to transfer them to another jail.