LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY)– Tuesday, Lafayette Consolidated Government and city officials held a town hall meeting to discuss the process and hear from residents regarding the proposed site for a new correctional facility.

Invited panelists for the Q&A session included Mayor-President Josh Guillory, Sheriff Mark Garber, City councilman Patrick “Pat” Lewis, City Councilman Glenn Lazard, Parish Councilman Abraham “AB” Rubin, Parish councilman Kevin Naquin, and Consuela Gaines, Lafayette V.O.T.E. 

Community members voiced their concerns about how an environment can impact the community, including the African American community in the Northside of Lafayette. Many residents wondered why the location was offered on Willow St. when new apartments, schools, and churches were built nearby.

“We don’t want it here. Take it to the South side. Put it in Broussard. Put it in Scott but don’t put it there,” said one community member. “We’re trying to change their environment. We’re trying to give them something different to look forward to instead of a jail.”

Another resident says that African American kids can feel “the fishing” of children from the schoolhouse to the jailhouse. Community members feel that placement of this facility, in this area, could contribute to that pipeline.

“The thought process was that area already served the sheriff, and the land was available, and from a business standpoint and the JDC [Judical District Court] if it could all be right there centrally located, then potentially could save us, money; taxpayers, money,” said Councilman Naquin. 

According to Councilman Naquin, it costs the parish nearly four million dollars to renovate and keep the current jail in downtown Lafayette up to par. Naquin adds the new jail near Willow would also deter crime.

“I don’t think there’s going to be a kid or a person that’s going to want to commit a crime and shoot that school up knowing that the sheriff’s facility is right down the road.” 

Many residents disapproved of the Naquin’s opinion and feared they would have an issue with inmates escaping or running to the nearby neighborhoods while transferring. 

Consuela Gaines, with Lafayette V.O.T.E., said she wants the community to remember, “jail, all they’re holding is a bunch of broken people. People who have mental illness, people who have been raped, molested. Just a bunch of broken people.” 

“We have to fight, and I know that it can be done, and I know that it will be done if we come together and get as many people behind this campaign and this effort it’s possible. We will prevent that jail from being built on Willow, and hopefully, we’ll prevent that jail from building built, period,” she adds. 

Councilman Rubin said the property on Willow St. still needs to be inquired about, and the council still has a figure out how to pay the people to maintain the building. 

“If there is another possibility, AB and I, if we can find something else that would make sense, I’m all over it,” said Naquin.