- Associated Press - Friday, January 29, 2016

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - New Orleans Sheriff Marlin Gusman plans to ship nearly 200 Louisiana convicts back to state custody from the city’s jail over the next 10 days, ending a policy that had drawn fire from Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration and inmate advocates.

The move announced Friday means an end to Gusman’s prized program aimed at helping state convicts near the end of their terms prepare for freedom with education and other services. Spokeswoman Amy Barrios said 120 of the convicts to be moved out are in that “re-entry” program. About 75 others are prisoners convicted of state crimes but awaiting trial in New Orleans on other charges, she said.

Gusman has repeatedly accused the city of providing too little money to pay for federal court-ordered reforms. More recently, he has said the city provides too little money to hire and retain qualified deputies.

“The city doesn’t want us to pay our deputies a living wage,” Barrios said.

Violence, inmate abuse and unsafe, unsanitary conditions at the jail led to an inmate lawsuit resulting in a court-approved 2013 agreement for reforms. Inmates were transferred to a new $150 million facility in September, alleviating some of the problems. But instances of violence and issues involving training and supervision of jail personnel remain.

In addition to pressing for more money for deputy salaries, Gusman has said the city still needs to build more jail space. Before giving up the prison re-entry program he transferred local pre-trial inmates to other jurisdictions, including a total of about 270 to a jail in East Carroll Parish, hours away near the Arkansas state line.

The city said state inmates should be shipped out first. Inmate advocates complained that shipping inmates so far away interfered with family visitation and lawyers’ ability to prepare for trials.

Even with the pending transfer, Barrios said, Gusman doesn’t currently plan to bring pre-trial inmates back, given his staffing situation. Once the transfers are complete, the jail will hold approximately 1,620 prisoners, Barrios said.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s spokesman Hayne Rainey said in an email the issue is one of jail management, not funding.

“As we have reiterated, we remain committed to reaching a master settlement with the Sheriff, so that we can resolve all of the issues related to the jail once and for all,” Rainey wrote.

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