Gusman Closing House of Detention!!

HOD New Orleans (Center tall white building)

HOD New Orleans (Center tall white building)

Goodbye House of Detention (HOD)!! We won’t miss you, but we will remember you forever, or 100 years, which ever comes first.

Built in the 1960s, historically the biggest jail building in the area, the 10 story HOD has housed most prisoners who spend more than a night with the Sheriff. Before prisoners are housed in their long term cells, they spend some time in the 10-17 person cells throughout HOD for assessment.

There are five double bunks, enough for ten inmates. More than ten, they sleep on the floor. In the summer, the coolest spots are in front of the large fan facing the cell. Three can sleep in front by the fan. Four more can sleep in between the double bunks. After ten inmates, the very thin mattresses generally are in very short supply.  Often late inmates don’t even receive the ‘kit’, which contains a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, a thin towel, a spork to eat with, and a 2nd neon orange jumpsuit, which you roll up and use as a pillow.

In the past, murderers were housed with burglars. That didn’t work out very well, and now, mostly non-violent prisoners are assessed together.

House of Detention, Orleans Parish Prison

House of Detention, Orleans Parish Prison

The pressure has been on Gusman like never before. Certainly the mounting criticism, the inspections by the Federal people, they all play a factor. We just had an opportunity at this time to act on it, Gusman said at a news conference.

Last month, the U.S. Marshals Service removed all the federal agency’s inmates from Orleans Parish jails, citing concerns about poor (!) conditions.

Last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a proposed class action lawsuit charging the jail is understaffed and plagued by violence.

Just this week, a federal panel examining prison rape across the country released a report claiming a high incidence of sexual violence at the jail.

A couple of months ago, the Orleans Parish Indigent Defender Office sued Gusman for numerous violations of the attorney client privilege.  They claim there is no privacy for their clients when they interview and consult with them.  The new

In September 2009, the Justice Department issued a very tough report that deplored the conditions in the jail and warned the federal government could file a lawsuit if serious changes weren’t implemented.

In recent months, Gusman has noted that he’s negotiating with federal officials about a possible consent decree over Orleans Parish Prison.

Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman is a defendant in 32 pending lawsuits alleging abuses of prisoners’ rights. The plaintiffs in such cases usually lose, but this adds to the pressure on the Sheriff.

The HOD is woefully underutilized at this time, with a census of approximately 500 inmates currently, according to Gusman. This means Gusman’s income is dropping like a rock since HOD’s population is way down at the same time the feds are removing all their prisoners.  Gusman gets paid according to his census. The city pays a different rate than the feds and the state.

I’m just about positive this consent decree will come to pass, based on the huge mess the Sheriff has created for himself. Katie Schwartzmann, managing attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center said, the facility has been a hotbed of complaints concerning contraband and inmate vs. inmate violence.

Gusman in Jail

Gusman in Jail

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~ by neworleansmusicman on April 14, 2012.

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