Mayor Landrieu- “City Cannot Pay for Consent Decrees!”

Push has come to shove again, and with 2 spanking fresh federal consent decrees in town now, one with NOPD, and one with OPP, the bills soon will be piling up.  The question is, can the city afford to have a constitutionally legal jail and police force?

This is not a new question, in fact it’s been asked since the flower power days of the 1960s!! That’s when the ACLU sued the sheriff over “cruel and unusual”  conditions at the jail, and the jail has been under almost continuous sanctions for their slack approach to maintaining constitutionally protected freedoms.

Back then, the decree hammered out a minimum funding agreement which stated what the city would pay for each prisoner on a daily basis. As the decades passed, the sheriff would often go back to court to ask for increases in the prisoner per diem.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu

I really hate this crap. I’m certainly not happy with our mayor for tipping his broke hand from the get go. Let the decrees get going first, then let on that we may have trouble paying our share. This way, the mayor is seen as cooperating and playing ball, and when financial difficulties arrive, other solutions very well may present themselves.

So the Landrieu is seen as obstructionist- he’s a democratic Mayor who wants the consent decrees to fix the intractable problems the police and jail have on the one hand, but cannot pay for two of them simultaneously.

Meanwhile, the city is under a number of other consent decrees and similar programs. The Sewerage and Water Board is under a federal consent decree for the horrible shape of the city’s pipes. The public housing authority is in federal receivership, another slightly different arrangement, and the Youth Study Center in Gentilly is under a separate agreement for unconstitutional conditions.

However, now that a federal judge has approved the agreement between Justice and our city, there isn’t a whole lot the mayor can do to change the financial responsibility they get with this deal. Mayor Landrieu did as District Judge Susie Morgan to delay the agreement, but that wasn’t to be.

The Orleans Parish Prison consent decree may cost $17 million, which is not budgeted for this year and would therefore bankrupt  the City, Landrieu said in a news release.  We just can’t afford it, said City Council member Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, a member of the council budget committee.

As I’ve previously written, A federal judge has order two trials to lay out responsibility for the jail consent decree. U.S. District Court Judge Lance Africk waded into the fray and ordered that two trials be held to determine whether conditions inside the jail are unconstitutional, and if they are, then who should pay to bring them into compliance. Africk ordered a February 19 trial on the constitutional claims, and an April 1 trial to determine funding, assuming jail conditions are deemed unconstitutional.

Possibly Africk may find himself drawn to the NOPD decree, since the same issues have popped up.

~ by neworleansmusicman on January 18, 2013.

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