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Photo courtesy Vernon Parish Sheriff’s Department

LEESVILLE, LA – The Vernon Correctional Facility will close at the end of the month after experiencing a prisoner shortage.

The medium security jail currently holds 201 inmates.

Financial projections set the minimum number of inmates required for the facility to be “self supporting” at 350, Vernon Parish Sheriff John S. “Sam” Craft said in a letter posted on Facebook.

“We have thoroughly investigated every possible avenue to avoid closing the facility,” Craft said. “With the number of inmates that we currently house…it is no longer financially feasible to remain open.”

The facility, which opened in 1993 and has become known as the “Pea Farm,” will shut its doors for good on March 31.

“In the coming weeks The Louisiana Department of Corrections will review inmate rosters and make a determination as to where each VCF inmate will be transferred,” Craft said. “There are several current VCF employees who will be able to retire and I am diligently working to reassign as many VCF employees as possible.”

Louisiana has long held the distinction of having the highest incarceration rate in the United States and the world, sparking a raft of criminal justice reform measures by Governor John Bel Edwards in 2017.

Louisiana incarcerated 776 people per 100,000 residents in 2015 – far beyond the national rate of 458, according to numbers from the U.S. Justice Department.

In November, 1,400 people serving time for nonviolent, non-sex offenses were released from jails across the state.

“Louisiana’s label as having the highest incarceration rate in the nation may be part of our past, but it will not be a part of our future,” Edwards said at the time.