38 Orleans Parish Jail Deaths Go Unanswered!!

I cannot even fathom the pain a person’s family and friends feel when a loved one is arrested in Orleans Parish, and perishes under the ‘care’ of Jailer Marlin Gusman. Talk about unanswered questions being asked over and over again, with very few answers ever forthcoming. 38 inmates have died in jail since Katrina.

Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman

Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman

Recently many of the family/loved ones of slain prisoners showed up at a City Council meeting when Gusman was also present. The photos clutched by loved ones are incredibly incongruous.  The pictures depict these lost souls at a happy point in their lives. There are no happy endings here- everyone in these photos died in jail.

When a person dies when it is their time,  survivors have an easier time understanding what has happened. When my beloved wife of 37 years recently passed, she was in ungodly pain with a burst aorta. This is easy to understand- no one wants their loved ones to suffer.

Orleans Parish Prison Complex

Orleans Parish Prison Complex

Deaths in jail are impossible to comprehend. When folks are arrested, they aren’t supposed to die while incarcerated, but they do. Some manage to commit suicide while being on suicide watch. Another died in restraints, unable to breathe because her asthma was unattended. Other causes of jail deaths are ‘unknown’.  What the heck does that mean? Orleans Parish Sheriffs’ Deputies, who run the jail for Gusman, are implicated in other deaths. There is no closure for the families without answers.

District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro refuses to pursue any of the jail death cases. He claims he doesn’t have the resources to investigate them. If a case is brought to his office by Gusman or a victim’s advocate, he will review it. I don’t understand Cannizzaro’s lack of interest in these cases.These deaths occur in Orleans Parish, and he is the D.A. for Orleans. I find his attitude here plainly insufficient.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu and five city council persons met with a core group of family members recently. I support this crucial dialog all the way and thank the Mayor and participating council members for taking the time to attend this important meeting. These grieving families also lobbied for the upcoming Consent Decree, as they are aware that true change within Orleans Parish Prison needs to come from Federal oversight. The families at least know that their cases have been listened to.

Long time civil rights attorney Mary Howell represents four families that have become advocates of reform. Each of the four deaths were “awful,” Howell stated.

~ by neworleansmusicman on November 26, 2012.

6 Responses to “38 Orleans Parish Jail Deaths Go Unanswered!!”

  1. It is interesting that the writer did not mention any of the deaths which occurred in that jail system when Charles Foti was sheriff. That was more than 30 years of deaths. The number exceeds those mentioned in his comments. It is also interesting that the writer cites no sources for the proposition that the present DA “refuses” to investigate or prosecute the jail deaths. Also, Sheriff Foti was under a consent decree in the 1970s and 80s. Hundreds of court orders and directives were ignored and violated. The federal court appointed Ross “The Boss” Maggio as Special Master to oversee the desired changes which never took effect. All the consent decrees they can muster will not prevent an inmate from killing another inmate if the desire and the resources to do it are available. Today’s typical inmates in the parish jail as well as in all of the state penal institutions in Louisiana have cell phones, drugs, weapons, etc. How do ou stop this? Certainly not with a consent decree. Whenever the American Correctional Association gets ready to visit a prison for inspection and certification, everyone is put on notice. People clean up, put dangerous tools away, use log books to give the appearance of strict controls. This is the way that it is. Always has been. Jail has never been a safe or a pleasant place. While no one wants to hear about someone dying needlessly in jail due to lack of medical treatment, suicide, or at the hands of another inmate, it is what it is. Maybe the focus ought to be on how we change the mindset of individuals who do shit that causes them to go to jail in the first place. I’d like to see some efforts made in this area. Praise the mayor all you want for the good job you think he is doing. But just drive along Canal Street and observe where the Christmas lights are placed on the palm trees in the neutral ground. From Rampart to the river. From Rampart to City Park Avenue and Canal Blvd., there ar no lights to brag about. Good job, Mr. Mayor, for making sure that tourists and inner Canal visitors see the lights. Others whose neighborhoods are outside of this “care zone” are left in the dark. They’re already bragging about the wonderful lights on Canal Street. So much for caring for the “entire” city. Hope no one is misled to believe that our mayor actually cares about the people, especially the inmates in jail.

    • The article is on Gusman, not Foti.As for changing the mindsets of folks who end up in jail, that’s a wonderful idea, but a rather intractable problem. I praise the Mayor for attending a meeting, not for anything else. I’m really not interested in the distribution of Christmas lights, which the Mayor doesn’t influence at all. In my opinion, the Mayor is trying to get the new Consent Decree started, showing he’s at least trying to improve the situation. Thanks very much for writing, your comment is the longest ever!

      • News Flash, Mr. neworleansmusicman….. The mayor was strongly against the consent decree, and still is…. He told the federal judge several weeks ago that if the city is forced to comply, he will start laying off city workers. In his proposed budget, he lists an expense amount for compliance with the consent decree which amount is higher than the amount he agreed it would cost the city. Blue collar workers; not those in the upper echelon of his administration: those with the 6-figure salaries will be the ones laid off. He is arrogant, self-centered, and simply on the wrong page when it comes to giving this city what it needs. Just check the record in federal court. In his own words, the consent decree is cost prohibitive. He does not support a consent decree that requires the city to spend money… The consent decree being worked on right now will relinquish the mayor’s total control over NOPD. This mayor has his back against the wall because the federal judge WILL require the city government to fund the activities and changes that the consent decree will create. Although I am not one who believes that the consent decree will make much difference for ordinary citizens, I welcome it. Both NOPD and the Sheriff have to make changes to their operations. Changes there are always good changes. But keep in mind, the feds have reported that NOPD has consistently violated citizens’ rights when making stops on the street. They have mistreated gays, lesbians, blacks, whites….. and everyone for many years. This mayor did not ask the feds to craft a consent decree. Please don’t get it wrong. He opposed it, and he wanted people to believe that Ronal Serpas will correct all of the problems. What a guy! At present, the mayor doesn’t want to fund the necessities at the jail, or increase the budget for the sheriff either. The records of the federal court and budget committee hearings make these claims fairly clear and accurate. And yes, who else decides that city property (light poles on Canal Street) will have Christmas lights? The mayor alone. Maybe you don’t care about Christmas lights. I certainly don’t care about the lights either. But with this mayor, the only thing that matters is tourism dollars. Light up the area where the tourists are. Forget about the other areas. That is what he focused on throughout his tenure as Lieutenant Governor. That is what all LG’s focus on. He doesn’t care if the lights in the Iberville Housing Development are out, or if the lights on I-10 or I-610 are out in urban neighborhoods. He is off-page and arrogant that he doesn’t even try to make the people feel that he cares about citizens. What a wasted vote…
        Thanks for your comments, which are interesting and worth writing about. THey provide me food for thought. Be blessed, and have a great day.

  2. My sister, Cayne, was the asthmatic who died while being restrained. Cayne died a traumatic, terrifying death in one of the nastiest places in the world. I can not imagine what she was thinking just before she died. That is on my mind every single day. She should have never been taken there, but she was there. And now Cayne is dead. As we come nearer to the FOURTH anniversary of her death, it tears me up that justice has not been served for her. FOUR years and no answers. FOUR years and Gusman still makes excuses and tells lies. Every day that he still sits in his official chair, being called Sheriff eats me up inside. He is a bad man and a poor sheriff.

  3. Consider, if you will, who would serve the needs of the sheriff’s office better, if Mr. Gusman were not the sheriff…….. I can’t think of one person; and I know A LOT OF PEOPLE. The reason that the answer is difficult to come by is that no one knows what another sheriff can or can’t do, will or won’t do, or will be indifferent about. I’ve never heard forums or townhall or hot seat type meetings of candidates for sheriff. Everyone says that they can do a better job, and everyone complains about what they perceive to be a prro job that the sheriff is doing. I think differently. I know that unlike Mr. Foti, Sheriff Gusman is approachable, a good listener, and an intelligent and educated man. I also believe that he is man of good moral character. I believe that each day he approaches his job as someone who is interested in making the jail system better and more humane for inmates. After all, he does not condone abuses of inmates by deputies or others working in the jails. He does not advocate killing or beating or depriving inmates of their basic needs. But one sheriff cannot watch hundreds of employees all of the time. So, when shit happens in the jail, as the CEO the sheriff takes the blame. I support the sheriff in his efforts, and it is my wish that he is successful in accomplishing what he sets out to do in his capacity as sheriff. I have few complaints about the running of the jail system. I’d like to see some ex-prisoners chime in, in an honest and forthright manner, and write about their experiences so that we can see what, if anything the sheriff can be blamed for or excused for.

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