Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal has initiated two procedures aimed at recovering costs incurred by inmates in the parish jail due to their own actions.
The first procedure involves a formal disciplinary process for inmates who violate jail rules and regulation. Shortly after taking office, Sheriff Seal instituted a formal disciplinary process in the jail whereby inmates are given required due process in an administrative hearing when that inmate has taken any intentional action that results in a monetary loss for the Sheriff’s Office or the parish. Such actions range from destroying public property to vandalizing public property.
Inmates charged with such actions are given a hearing by a jail official to determine whether or not the inmate is guilty of any action that creates a monetary loss. This would include such actions as destroying a mattress, destroying clothing or linens, or intentionally clogging a toilet with paper, cellophane or any other object. If the inmate is found guilty in the administrative hearing, he/she is assessed a fine equal to the amount of damage the inmate caused. That amount then is deducted from any current or future funds in the inmate’s account.
A recent example involved the intentional clogging of a toilet with potato chip bags and other items which resulted in a plumber’s bill of $75. The three inmates housed in that cell were found guilty in an administrative hearing and assessed a penalty of $25 each to cover the cost of the plumbing bill.
According to the Attorney General’s Office, a second administrative procedure recently implemented by the Sheriff’s Office might be a first for the State of Louisiana. If an inmate’s intentional actions create an otherwise unnecessary expenditure for the Sheriff’s Office, that inmate is sued in the Third Ward Justice of the Peace Court for the amount of the expenditures. Once a judgment is entered, a lien or garnishment is placed against the inmate’s future earnings until the judgment is satisfied.
This procedure will be particularly effective for inmates who will serve a sentence with the Department of Corrections. Earnings as an inmate laborer, plus any funds placed on that inmate’s account from any source, will be subject to seizure for restitution to the Sheriff’s Office until the amount of the judgment is satisfied.
The first suit filed against an inmate demanded restitution from an inmate for intentional actions which created a financial expense for the Sheriff’s Office. A hearing was conducted before Justice of the Peace Billy W. Passman who subsequently issued a judgment for restitution to the Sheriff’s Office in the amount of $1,036.45. That particular inmate was convicted and sentenced is now in the custody of the Department of Corrections. Any future earnings from work programs or income from any other source will be utilized to satisfy the judgment.
Sheriff Randy Seal commented, “It is not fair for the taxpayers of Washington Parish to bear a financial burden caused by the intentional act of any inmate. Any person must be held accountable for their own actions, even inmates. If an inmate chooses to destroy public property or create an unnecessary expense for the Sheriff’s Office, he or she will be held accountable. It is simply an issue of fairness for the hardworking taxpayers of Washington Parish. Thus far, this is the only time we have had to sue an inmate. Hopefully, word is getting around that we will tolerate no foolish behavior from inmates. We have a professional jail staff which operates the jail in a constitutional manner and will hold inmates accountable for their behavior. They must remember that it is a parish jail, not a day camp.”