The eight-part investigative series from The Times-Picayune on the state of Louisiana’s prison system gave Louisianans a troubling glimpse of how we became — and why we remain — the world’s prison capital. But included in the staggering statistics was one shining tidbit about Lafayette Parish Sheriff Mike Neustrom and his efforts to offer training and rehabilitation services to the state and local prisoners he houses in the Lafayette Parish Correctional Center. In its “Louisiana Incarcerated” series, The T-P reports that Neustrom, “one of the few Louisiana sheriffs who has made rehabilitating inmates a priority,” spends roughly $2.5 million a year on education, mental health and substance abuse programs for prisoners; he’s been described as a model for other local sheriffs to follow in trying to correct the decades-old debacle of housing state prisoners for parish profit.
Lafayette Consolidated Government appears ready to follow through with City-Parish President Joey Durel’s pledge to sever LCG’s relationship with the city of Broussard. According to the smaller Lafayette Parish municipality, LCG is declining to renew a $40,000 contract with Broussard to provide fire protection to unincorporated parts of Broussard. The town learned the news this week when Broussard Fire Chief Bryan Champagne contacted his counterpart in Lafayette, Chief Robert Benoit. Champagne is assuring residents in unincorporated Lafayette Parish that Broussard will respond to calls in their area. Amy Jones, a Lafayette-based publicist who is representing Broussard in its ongoing public relations battle with Durel and LCG, accuses Durel and consolidated government of risking public safety to grind an ax: “We cannot continue to play games with public safety and put citizens in the unincorporated areas at risk,” Jones says. “The city of Broussard will continue responding as long as it can, but the city of Lafayette’s refusal to sign this contract will eventually lead to less fire protection in the unincorporated areas.” Can this rocky relationship get any worse? Oh, yeah.
The 15 freshman GOP representatives in the House Tea Party Caucus rode a populist, anti-bailout wave into Congress in 2010, castigating the federal government for its bailouts of Wall Street and the auto industry and their attendant contribution to the national debt. If they shared one thing in common it was the ire they reserved especially for the Wall Street “Too Big to Fail” bailout, otherwise known as the Troubled Assets Relief Program, a Bush administration initiative they hung around the neck of Bush’s successor. Yet according to an analysis of federal campaign contributions, voting records and public statements by the 15 conducted by the group ThinkProgress, each of those Tea Party freshmen has taken thousands of dollars from political action committees representing TARP-rescued financial institutions, and now they’re effectively shills for Wall Street. Most have also taken campaign cash from the American Bankers Association. One of their members, U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry of New Iberia was the least egregious among them, accepting less than $3,000 from a TARP entity and nothing from the ABA.
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