- Associated Press - Thursday, April 17, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Lawyers for the city of New Orleans and the local sheriff reached agreement Thursday on how to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix problems at the city’s violent jail, marking at least a temporary truce in an often nasty legal and political battle.

The pact was reached in federal court between the city, which funds the jail, and Sheriff Marlin Gusman, who operates it. U.S. District Judge Lance Africk approved the agreement, which comes months after he approved a reform agreement between Gusman and lawyers for inmates who had sued over unsanitary conditions, poor medical treatment and sometimes-deadly violence at the lockup.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration had fought approval of that pact between Gusman and the inmates, arguing the city would be faced with paying for mismanagement by the sheriff.

The bickering ended for a time late last year, when the city agreed to provide nearly $1.9 million for the court-ordered jail reforms. Landrieu and Gusman both were re-elected in the spring and court battles over funding later resumed.

Thursday’s agreement deals with $950,000 that remains unspent form last year’s allotment. It earmarks more than $457,000 for several new jail management positions.

Among the half-dozen managers to be hired initially with the $457,000 are a human resources director and a classification manager. Personnel issues, including a short staff and underpaid guards, have been blamed in part for problems at the jail. So has the classification of prisoners at a lockup where, according to testimony last year, too little is done to protect vulnerable inmates from violent ones.

What’s left of the remaining money is to be put toward hiring more guards and addressing numerous other issues, including staffing and equipping a new jail, set to open later this year. Gusman has said the new building will play a major part in improving conditions for the roughly 2,000 inmates.

Thursday’s agreement also requires that court-appointed jail monitor Susan McCampbell receive monthly reports from Gusman’s office about the spending of the money.

It was unclear if Thursday’s agreement means a permanent end to the Landrieu-Gusman battles. It does not obligate any specific level of spending by the city for 2015 or beyond.

Problems at the jail came into dramatic focus during court hearings last year, after an inmate-made video displaying drinking, drug use and the brandishing of a handgun in a now-closed jail building was released by the court.

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