COVINGTON, La. – A controversial work release program that was the target of an Eyewitness News Investigation will be closing, at least temporarily, moving nearly 200 inmates back into prisons on the northshore, St. Tammany Sheriff Jack Strain confirmed.
Strain said the move was probably permanent, but he doesn't know yet. He said the facility was shut down for security reasons and he said "reckless journalism" may have encouraged inmates to make bad decisions and try to escape.
"There's been a great deal of reporting on incidents that happened years ago, and maybe that reckless journalism is one of the reasons that some of the inmates it was an opportunity for them to take advantage of it and sadly the actions of a few idiots have hurt over 100 men who were turning their lives around. But, as sheriff my number one priority is public safety."
Strain said there were three incidents in the past few weeks and that if he couldn't be assured that they wouldn't continue, he couldn't keep the facility open.
The North Shore Workforce Facility housed the work-release inmates, including 35-year-old Christopher Ricker, who escaped early Thursday, allegedly kidnapped his girlfriend and then crashed a car while eluding authorities who set up a massive manhunt.
A series of reports by Katie Moore, along with Sara Pagones of the New Orleans Advocate, raised questions about the facility’s oversight, safety and security.