Residents of Louisiana's Lafourche Parish will vote this Saturday on a controversial ballot proposal to use money currently financing the local library system in order to construct a brand new $25 million jail.
Lafourche Parish Council members support the measure, which will see the library lose $800,000 out of its $6.4 million budget every year for the next 30 years, but no local lawmaker is more supportive than Parish Council Chair Lindel Toups.
Speaking with the Tri-Parish Times, Toups insisted that the library has "too much money," and the so-called "jail tax" proposal allows for the funding of a 540-bed jail without raising taxes on parish citizens.
But for Toups, defunding the library is a necessary measure, irrespective of the rededication of funds.
"They’re teaching Mexicans how to speak English," he said, referring to one library's Hispanic-language section, Biblioteca Hispana. "Let that son of a bitch go back to Mexico."
"Mexicans" are the only ones "abusing" the system, per Toups.
"There’s just so many things they’re doing that I don’t agree with," he said. "Them junkies and hippies and food stamps (recipients) and all, they use the library to look at drugs and food stamps (on the Internet). I see them do it.”
According to the parish's "jail consultant," Mike LeBlanc of MWL Architects, the new jail is necessary in order to alleviate the overcrowding in the current jail, which is in a very poor state and is housing 145 inmates more than the 100 it was built to accommodate.
But Toups has what some might consider a conflict of interest in wanting to see a bigger, better jail built near the site of the old one.
Library officials say the diversion of funds will severely impact the services provided by the system as cuts are made and the budget deficit balloons.
A fact sheet released by the Lafourche Parish Public Library notes that some 43% percent of households in Lafourche Parish are not currently hooked up to the Internet and rely on the library for free Internet access.
Additionally, some 52% of all parish households are library card holders.