BATON ROUGE - Despite legislators passing a law creating a dedicated funding source for a misdemeanor jail in Baton Rouge, one year later it sits unused and obsolete on the first floor of Baton Rouge City Court.
That could change in the next few weeks as law enforcement figures meet to discuss temporarily opening it for the Fourth of July weekend.
Currently a bench warrant fee is collected from all courts in East Baton Rouge Parish for offenders who fail to appear. That money is supposed to be used to fund the misdemeanor jail. Since August approximately $500,000 has been collected, short of the estimated $2 million it would take to open the jail on a permanent basis.
"What the city and law enforcement are currently trying to do is open the jail on an interim basis through summer and into the fall," Mark Dumaine with the EBR District Attorney's Office said.
Constable Reginald Brown is spearheading the effort to get the jail open.
"None of us in law enforcement are very proud of what we have," Brown said. "We are making do with what we have."
The city jail can hold up to 140 prisoners per day, and since it would primarily handle misdemeanors there's no need to have prisoners stay overnight. That's one cost-saving measure which could keep it open on an interim basis soon to clear 160,000 outstanding warrants for things like traffic offenses, DWI's, and other misdemeanor offenses.
"Before I would consider opening the jail on a 365-day basis, I would want to have the Louisiana Department of Corrections with federal court and board of health reevaluate our jail," Brown said.
If you would like to check to see if you have an active bench warrant you can do so by the following ways.
19th JDC - EBR Sheriff
Baker City Court - 225-778-1866