What Does Austerity Bring to a Big Louisiana Jail?

•April 17, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I’ve got a friend from a well to do family from uptown New Orleans who had a problem breaking into unlocked cars and stealing the contents to support a drug habit. After years of stealing like this, he got caught and convicted and sent to Angola State Penitentiary on a 9 year sentence. He’s 3 years into the sentence and was recently moved to a private for profit (bad idea!) called Allen Correctional Center.

Allen Correctional Center

After receiving a $13,000 Pell grant for his first two semesters earning his associate’s degree, he got shipped in the middle of his second semester. That’s right, college in prison costs big bucks, and the government is happy to issue you a Pell grant to pay for it.  Allen has an associate’s program also, but it takes a few weeks to get back in.

Allen’s conditions are more chaotic than Angola’s and the laid back atmosphere that Angola had is non existent in Allen. There are few guards at Allen, they are undertrained, and the inmates are much younger serving far shorter sentences of a couple of years. Allen is a world of difference compared to Angola. Almost all the younger inmates care about is getting high, and it’s a veritable drug store inside Allen.

The library, gym, votech school and big yard are all shut down because these privately run jails get paid only 24 dollars a day to house state inmates and there’s not enough money to run the place as a real prison, so most of the time inmates are locked down in their dorms. Lock and feed is what this is called and it’s all the inmates do.

My friend lucked out in that right after getting there, he got a job in the prison commissary filling other inmates’ store orders, stocking shelves, and unloading trucks. Only six inmates work there out of an inmate population of over 1,300. It’s considered one of the better jobs and he’s very glad to have it. It keeps  busy Monday through Friday from 7am to 3 or 4 pm. Worst thing is Allen’s all the way damn near to Lake Charles which is over 3 hours from New Orleans. So visitation is going to slow down to be at most once or twice a year.

 

 

Stolen Guns Causing Mayhem Throughout Town!

•March 17, 2017 • Leave a Comment

A record 600+ guns were reported stolen in New Orleans last year, an astounding number. It turns out robbers have zeroed in on cash, guns and jewelry as the most valuable, portable items they can steal. Thieves with hours in a house still only take these three items.  Criminals acquire guns in several ways, and stealing guns is a popular from cars remains a popular method.

Why people leave cash and guns in their cars I will never understand. I don’t own any guns and I’ve never left more than newspaper change in the car. I have a friend of a friend who is serving 10 years in Angola who fueled a heroin addiction by robbing open cars uptown of guns and cash. He’s a real clean looking fellow who the cops never suspected for years. He did a lot of horse by selling guns and collecting a lot of greenbacks. Half of all reported stolen guns were stolen from vehicles.

Car Waiting to be Burglarized

Federal authorities report that 60% of all gun thefts are never reported. I suppose people are embarrassed by their stupidity. Stories abound about people leaving their cars unlocked all day, with thousands of dollars in cash and an arsenal in the car.  Folks think leaving their keys on the dashboard is smart, as they are easy to find. That holds for any crooks walking by also.

What else do people leave in their cars? You’d be surprised- Car burglars take anything of value from cash, GPSs, electronics, digital cameras, I-pods, MP3 Players, expensive sunglasses, laptops, weapons and whatever else of value that is left insecure.

New Orleans City Council OKs Additional $2.6 million to Run Prison!

•March 12, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The City Council is so enamored with the terrific turnaround that has occurred at the Orleans Parish Prison that they raised the Jail budget by $2.6 million. Why was this done? To reward the great work of the independent administrator of the jail, Gary D. Maynard. Maynard as hired to ‘assist’ Gusman in running his jail by studying the situation and issuing a report. His report has dazzled the powers that be (Mayor, City Council) to the point of giddiness.  It’s a bright day for our city when a consultant does what the elected official just cannot, grab control of our out of control Orleans Parish penal system.

Every year, the City Council and Gusman’s team duke it out before the Council over the jail’s budget. Now, the City Council, the Mayor, and the Sheriff’s Office are in agreement for the first time in a million years, or so it seems.  Maynard has even brought agreement to the formerly highly contentious issue of another, smaller new jail building dedicated to less than a hundred mentally ill inmates.

The new jail building would cost $89 million and would be build within 24 months. It will house mentally unstable or physically unfit inmates.  Another facet of the plan calls for the reopening of the jail’s Temporary Detention Center.

Opening both facilities will ensure that all those prisoners that Gusman that he sent to North Louisiana and kept there can return to the local jail. That saves a million and a half dollars. The spending plan dictates raises for Sheriff’s office employees of approximately $3,000/year for most employees. Maynard’s plan also increases staffing by 77 new civilians and 43 new uniformed jailers.

 

Hundreds More Prisoners to be Relocated to Plaquemines!

•February 4, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Under a plan hatched by Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s court ordered stand-in, Gary D. Maynard, months ago, half the inmates in the new jail will move temporarily move to the empty new Plaquemines jail. The irony here is just amazing. Our new jail will be mostly empty!  Instead of working the new training into the staffs’ schedules, for example an extra two or three classes a week for a total of 6 to 12 hours, seems easier and cheaper than incurring the large cost of transporting hundreds of inmates around for a few months.

Plaquemines Parish New Jail 2

Plaquemines Parish New Jail 2

A 6-week training program is supposed to work miracles in fixing a jail staff that is underpaid and demoralized by years of constant acting out by both the inmates and the staff. Meanwhile, the hundreds of inmates awaiting trial in far flung jails around the state cannot get access to their families, support network or attorneys . Defense attorneys, judges and families are frustrated by this negative turn of events.

In late 2015, Gusman began housing hundreds of prisoners in Northern Louisiana due to a deputy shortage that has endangered both the inmates and deputies.

The Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office agreed to take 200 New Orleans inmates at the new Pointe a la Hache 871 bed jail, which has stood empty since opening in 2015. Plaquemines has been unable to field enough trained deputies to man the new jail, but Plaquemines Sheriff Gerald Turlich, Jr. said he’s hired a dozen new correctional officers with the hopes of expanding the jail’s population.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu

Turlich said the city of New Orleans will pony up 28 dollars a day, just about 4 bucks more than the State Department of Public Safety and Corrections pays to sheriffs’ housing state prisoners.

New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, who is mandated by state law to pay for the housing of New Orleans prisoners, completely supports Maynard’s plan to temporarily relocate inmates out of New Orleans so the staff can be properly trained.

20 Year Old Perjury Case Gets City Council and Cannizzaro Feuding- In Court!!

•January 29, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Leon Cannizzaro isn’t the worst District Attorney New Orleans has ever seen, but he has made some boneheaded decisions. Recently a man was released from prison after serving 20 years because his chief accusers recanted their testimony, stating that the police had pressured them to see things their way.

leon-cannizzaro-looking-unhappy

Our Esteemed D.A. Looking Dour

Our D.A. proceeds to file perjury charges against the men who changed their testimony. When recant your testimony because the police originally made you say something untrue, that’s a good thing. People should be encouraged to step forward and right legal wrongs whenever possible. Prosecuting them discourages this sort of action. That’s bad for society as a whole.

New Orleans City Councilman Jason Williams remained the legal ringleader, this time in his role as a criminal defense attorney, as he and a Cannizzaro lieutenant traded bitter barbs during the high-profile perjury trial. Most people think that attorneys shouldn’t insult each other during trial. It appears infantile to everyone in the courtroom. It is infantile.

Williams has been the anti-Cannizzaro force on the City Council, cheerleading most of the criticism of the D.A. Personally I think Cannizzaro deserves all the criticism. He could be a much better District Attorney.

councilman-jason-williams

Jason Williams Looking Jovial

The D.A. isn’t having a very good time recently. The City Council  cut the D.A.’s office budget by $600,000. Cannizzaro has gone after the Mayor Mitch Landrieu recently, making fun of the Mayor’s new crime fighting plan.

Taking your out of court feud into court is immature by both parties, and a bad example of abusing the system. It seems like Cannizzaro is mad about the system freeing an innocent man. That’s acting like a baby also.

Lawsuits Claim Inmates Are Held Beyond End of Sentence!

•January 16, 2017 • Leave a Comment

riverbend

 

Two lawsuits claiming that prisoners from New Orleans residing in jails in faraway Northeastern Louisiana are being held beyond their release dates. Lawyers for the MacAthur Justice Center blame a breakdown in the process of releasing prisoners or sending them to the state Department of Public Safety and Corrections once they are sentenced by Orleans Parish judges.

The lack of a sense of urgency to fix this is appalling, said Katie Schwartzmann, the law firms co-director. We had no choice other than to sue to start trying to get people out of jail. In addition to people missing the holidays with their families, the taxpayers are paying to illegally house people in jail right now. 

Beleaguered Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman in 2015 moved hundreds of inmates to East Carroll Parish 336 miles away as his solution to an inadequate number of trained deputies. Court appointed experts concur that the Orleans Justice Center (new jail) was extremely understaffed with properly trained deputies. Gusman was forced to mothball much of the $150 million building until enough guards are trained and hired.

Where do these prisoners end up? River Bend Detention Center (RBDC) is located at 9450 Highway 65 just south of Lake Providence, Louisiana in East Carroll Parish.  The facility originally opened in 1995 with 202 beds.  The facility expanded in 2000 adding another 416 beds.  In August 2009 another expansion increased the total operational capacity to 1340.  It currently houses offenders for the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections as well as pre-conviction offenders for local parish and municipal agencies.

Moving prisoners has proved very expensive for the City of New Orleans, who is responsible for the housing and transporting of the inmates. Prisoner families and the convicts’ attorneys are appalled that to see their loved ones they must now travel to Memphis, Tennessee. It’s hard for many families to make the 336 mile trek regularly.

Since the prisoners essentially pay the jail bills, the more inmates, the better, or so goes the logic in Louisiana. That’s a major motive for keeping prisoners in jail past their sentence dates.

 

New Orleans City Council Overhauls Bail System!

•January 15, 2017 • Leave a Comment

bail-sign

Hell has frozen over and pigs are flying.  Years late but not too soon, the New Orleans City Council, by unanimous vote, modernized the antiquated Orleans Parish bail system. If you were poor, you were put in jail. That is wrong on every level. Now, if you are charged with a nonviolent crime, and meet certain important conditions, you won’t be jailed, you’ll be free on your own recognizance.

This is a momentous time for the city of New Orleans. As I have said often, how we treat our most disadvantaged is a window into our morality. Of course, in New Orleans and around Louisiana, court fees and bail bonds pay for the sheriff’s salary. Less prisoners means a lower budget for the sheriff. You can see why they want a full jail.

Historically, Louisiana is the prison capital of the world. That’s a horrible distinction to own. Our incarceration rate is 5x Iran’s, 13x China’s and 20x German’s rate of incarceration.

This momentous decision came about after of months of wrangling and negotiation among council members, who were divided when this bill first came up in September of last year. The bill failed to pass then as the council deadlocked.

jail-bars-2

 

Presently, Municipal Court judges make the decision as to how much bail is assigned to a given inmate. The rate varies from $150 for small time offenses to $2,500 for more serious crimes. Prisoners are automatically released without bail for less than half the 35 different offenses the court handles.

Defendants who cannot pay bail go before a judge, who then makes the call about reducing the bond.

The new passed version is a much smarter bill than the September one. That’s because the council members consulted with judges and law enforcement officials in the interim. There are special rules for repeat offenders, no-shows, flight risks or those in imminent danger. The first bill was lacking many of these improvements, and the Municipal Court judges and many bail bondsmen opposed it.

If you are awaiting trial and get arrested again, your bail is revoked. If you have the cash on hand to pay your bond, you won’t have to pay more than $2500.