Gusman Capitulates and Settlement is Reached in Consent Decree Impass!!

Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s worst nightmare occurred Tuesday morning. Gusman, the U.S. Justice Department, and a group of current and former inmates represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a motion in federal court this morning seeking approval of a proposed consent decree for Orleans Parish Prison.

Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman

Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff  Marlin Gusman

Gusman fought tooth and nail to prevent this day from ever coming, but there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of him avoiding what occurred today.

It took a mighty effort to get him to the table today, and the key issue of who pays for the consent decree is still in play, but he signed on the proverbial dotted line today.

Pay was the number one reason Gusman was brought to the table today. He gets paid per inmate, and has had as many as 6,000 inmates before Hurricane Katrina to around 2,000 inmates today. ICE pulled their prisoners earlier this year as did the Federal Marshall Service. An innovative program begun by the Vera Institute assesses arrestees with a ten point scale to determine if they can be safely released back into the community to await trial or do they need to be remanded instead. This has meant less prisoners awaiting trial, further lowering the census.

Orleans Parish Prison Jail CellOrleans Parish Prison Jail CellOrleans Parish Prison Jail Cell

Orleans Parish Prison Jail Cell

This is not a fair way to fund a jail! You never know how much money you’ll have exactly, as your prisoner census will rise and fall. As 2012 winds up, the census has dropped steadily all year. I don’t know what the minimum number of per/diem inmates Gusman needs to avoid wholesale loss of Sheriff’s Deputies. These folks aren’t known to have a great salary, benefits, package, and they have to buy their own uniforms.

Orleans Parish Criminal Deputy Badge

Orleans Parish Criminal Deputy Badge

The agreement focuses on providing adequate medical care including mental/suicide watch services; providing translation services to non-English prisoners; protecting prisoners from physical/mental abuse; changing the jail’s funding mechanism to a more stable footing.

Other key aspects of the reforms:  sanitation, training, quality assurance/performance improvement, fire and environmental hazard safety, and improved policies, procedures, and practices.

Gusman and the Mayor are still feuding about funding the consent decree. The mayor’s people say the problems with the jail aren’t about the funding. That is both true and not true. It’s very untrue concerning the longer term permanent funding of the jail. It’s true concerning the corruption, lack of staff discipline, rapes, violence and abuse that occurs at the jail.

Judge Lance Africk is overseeing the agreement, and can veto any changes before they can be implemented.

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~ by neworleansmusicman on December 12, 2012.

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