A/C off and on at parish prison

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By Bonnie Culverhouse

Families of some prisoners at Bayou Dorcheat Correctional Center have been complaining there is lack of air conditioning at the facility.

Webster Parish Sheriff Jason Parker says air conditioning units in the four dorms at BDCC have been struggling to keep up with the hot weather this summer, but that’s not the only reason some of the units are down.

“We have four dorms at BDCC – A, B, C and D – that hold up to 100 prisoners per dorm,” Parker said. “Then we have two lockdown blocks that can hold up to three per cell.”

Total number of prisoners that can be held at BDCC is 444, however, as of August 6, there were 413 incarcerated there.

The facility was opened under Sheriff Ted Riser, who was in office from 1996 until 2004. Each dorm has a 20-ton air conditioner.

“C and D dorms are completely repaired and operational,” Parker said, of the a/c units. “A and B dorms … we have capacitors in to replace the ones that were damaged, and by the end of the week, we should have those fully functional.”

When the units are down, Parker said each dorm has multiple large “shop” fans circulating the air.

“Louisiana is not required by law to air condition prisons,” said the sheriff. “We do have to administer circulating air, and we have those big fans. Each dorm had ice coolers with ice and water, anything they needed to keep them cool.”

There are laundry units at BDCC, however, one of the issues causing a/c units to fail is connected to laundry.

“The inmates wash their clothes in the sink and then hang them over the return air vents to dry, and that causes damage to the capacitors,” Parker said. “We have let them know that if they are caught hanging anything on those return air vents, they could possibly receive charges for criminal damage to property and be liable for the cost of the damaged capacitor. Those are $8,000 a pop.”

Parker said his department wants the offenders to be comfortable and said he feels like the other inmates will police each other to ensure the units continue to run.

One year ago, it was reported that Louisiana Legislators haven’t appropriated the money to air condition all prison living areas – a project that could cost from $28 million to $60 million. A first step was taken in the 2022 legislative session with a $550,000 Capital Outlay appropriation that can be used to borrow around $2 million.