The House approved an amendment that would authorize the privatization of the Avoyelles Correctional Center but not sell it, After the amendment, Rep. Henry Burns, R-Haughton, called off debate on the House floor on his HB850 for more study.
A number of legislators indicated they would not like to sell a capital asset of the state,"
Without the sale, the state now would solicit requests for proposals to determine whether "it would be advantageous to the state" to privatize the prison, before bringing it back to the legislature. A contract would be for 10 years, not 20 as in the original bill.
Prison workers from Avoyelles watched the more than hourlong debate from the balcony of the House chamber, as the bill changed. Afterward, they gathered around state Rep. Robert Johnson as he explained the situation.
Johnson, who strongly opposes the privatization, suggested Burns avoided a final vote on the measure because he lacks the necessary support.
Johnson has said other private prisons in Winn and Allen Parishes have more escapes and one involved prison guards who conspired with inmates.
Avoyelles was built with legislation that approved its construction but said it could not be sold or privatized. Fannin said that's why the current bill is needed to change the way it operates.
Former state Rep. Raymond Laborde of Marksville, who authored the bill to build Avoyelles prison, said the non-privatization clause was a requirement so he could convince residents that it would bring jobs to the community.
There had been opposition to the prison in the Cottonport-Plaucheville area from residents who were concerned about escapes. Several meetings were held with Laborde and the residents before the prison was built to hear the concerns.