Search This Blog


To the Caddo Sheriff and Commission: get on with it

Regarding the series of legal maneuverings that even the Louisiana judiciary declares is complicated, now another chapter opens in the long-running dispute between Caddo Parish government and Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator over who pays what at the Caddo Correctional Center.

I’m not a lawyer and, worse, I only have three college degrees, so I will try to make this almost-incomprehensible legal mess as least partly understandable. The parish owns the CCC. However, they contract to the sheriff to operate it, which is mandated by statute. Legally, they must pay the sheriff at least $3.50 a day per parish prisoner to do so, for which the sheriff is responsible for clothing and feeding such prisoners. However, it must pay additionally for medical and medical transportation expenses.

Obviously, at this statutory rate (which the parish cares not to pay any more) the sheriff could not operate the facility on only the daily funding rate. One way which generates more funds to do so is to take on state prisoners (there are other kinds too, such as federal prisoners and prisoners from other parishes, but to keep it simple let’s just assume that the two sources are parish and state prisoners). Here, the state must pay the sheriff at least $22.39 a day for the provision of the same kinds of services.

However, Caddo Parish argued that since non-Caddo parish prisoners are housed there, that the sheriff was bound to reimburse it for such expenses related to the general existence of the CCC in relation to the proportion of state prisoners there (roughly 25 percent at any given time). In May, the state’s Second Court of Appeals rejected that, allowing Prator to bill the parish for the additional expenses without himself being billed for what the Court called “fixed” expenses of the CCC.

But the bill Prator sent over apparently also includes expenses of the state prisoners, and the parish wants that portion excised out, which may lead to more legal maneuvering which already has cost parish taxpayers plenty (at least the Second Court’s bill only added about $200; it’s the lawyers’ fees that really add up). The irony of course is that, to this point, it is all about bookkeeping: parish taxpayers pay regardless, the dispute is just which parish entity gets what funds and who gets charged what.

Which is why, instead of continuing bickering, both entities need to discuss alternative ways of meeting their financial objectives. The Court suggested two ways immediately available in its decision. One would be for the parish to get the state to send reimbursement to it rather than the sheriff (which it then, of course, would have to turn right back around and hand it over to the sheriff any statutorily-required expenses). It also suggested that the sheriff could bill the state for the other expenses for state prisoners.

And then there always are legislative solutions. I’m sure Prator would find a lot of sheriffs ready to line up behind a bill that would increase the $3.50 level and/or the $22.39 level (it’s been tried before). And the parish could try to get state prisoners to pay additionally to it for certain things (again, it’s been tried before).

Both the parish commission and sheriff have expressed their desire to get this over with. So why don’t they start pursuing these other solutions as well? It’s only been two years now of this wrangling.

No comments: