NEW ORLEANS (AP) - An attorney for New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu heavily criticized Orleans Sheriff Marlin Gusman in federal court, saying the sheriff does not appear to be “genuinely interested” in fulfilling a court-mandated overhaul of Orleans Parish Prison.
The New Orleans Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/1r2HfJO) that Attorney Harry Rosenberg said Thursday Gusman does not deserve additional funding from the city until he can show he is fiscally responsible.
Blake Arcuri, an attorney for Gusman, took issue with the suggestion that no progress is being made, and he assured U.S. District Judge Lance Africk the sheriff has “no intention of bankrupting the city.”
In a related development, the New Orleans district attorney said in a news release that he has been working with Gusman to investigate how a cache of cellphones got into the jail.
The jail’s contraband problem, including cellphones, drugs and even weapons came into public view last year during court hearings over jail funding, when 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.
That was just one development in a months-long feud between the city and the sheriff over how best to fund a federal court-approved jail reform agreement Gusman reached with attorneys for inmates more than a year ago.
“The sheriff signed the consent decree, and that’s it,” said Rosenberg, who assailed Gusman and his staff for being “missing in action” at a hearing intended to update Africk on conditions at the long-troubled jail. “He put his name on it, and that’s been the extent of his action.”
The dispute appeared to have quieted during election season. Landrieu, who won re-election in a landslide in February, stayed neutral in the sheriff’s race, which Gusman won, defeating former Sheriff Charles Foti in a runoff.
The battle has reignited to decide what resources are needed to ensure inmates receive adequate supervision and medical and mental-health treatment.
Susan McCampbell, the court-appointed monitor of the jail reform, testified that OPP remains grossly understaffed. She said Gusman will need as many as 500 additional employees to satisfy the decree, including specialized hires ranging from human resources specialists to a youthful-offender program coordinator. Hiring all those people could take years, given the rates of attrition and turnover the Sheriff’s Office has experienced.
McCampbell and the plaintiffs sought to underscore the urgency of the jail’s needs, regardless of how the reforms are funded. They said Gusman has failed to fulfill many of the consent decree’s most pressing provisions, such as implementing a new inmate classification system that could help protect inmates from sexual assault. Progress has stalled, they said, and the jail is so broken that there is no infrastructure in place to process the hundreds of applications the Sheriff’s Office would need to sift through to meet the new staffing mandates.
“People continue to be stabbed, beaten, and are suffering from a lack of mental health care,” Laura Coon, a Justice Department attorney, told Africk in an opening statement.
Information from: The New Orleans Advocate, https://www.neworleansadvocate.com
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