Sides Drawn in Orleans Parish Jail Size Controversy!!

Here’s how the sides line up- New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s decision is expected soon.

Smaller jail– Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition (OPPRC), Southern Poverty Law Center, U.S. Department of Justice, New Orleans City Councilwoman Stacy Head.

Larger jailForward New Orleans, the Business Council of New Orleans and the River Region, Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman, Metropolitan Crime Coalition Executive Director Raphael Goyeneche.

I want a smaller jail, but the real question to be decided first is how should the jail be funded? The per diem practice has to GO!! Once this payment system is demolished, then the dust will clear and a major agenda will be removed from the table. Gusman himself may switch sides and want a smaller jail if the per diem system is dumped.

A little background information is required here.

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The following is from the New Orleans Advocate-

More than two years ago, the New Orleans City Council passed an ordinance hailed as a landmark step towards ending the city’s reign as the incarceration capital of the country.

The law limited the new prison facility, now rising off Perdido Street, to 1,438 beds. It came after a hard-fought battle, with months of public hearings, pledges from politicians and activists with signs reading “1,438 Cap!”

Councilwoman Susan Guidry

Councilwoman Susan Guidry

Mayor Mitch Landrieu told a federal judge last week that he will not enforce the 2011 ordinance and asked the council to rewrite it. Even so, the mayor blamed Gusman for violating the 2011 law by constructing a two-building jail that lacked certain basic facilities: an infirmary, small tiers for special populations, mental health facilities, a laundry room. As a result, the mayor reasoned, a third building must be built.

We’re in such a pickle now, said retired Judge Calvin Johnson, who two years ago served on the committee that eventually came up with the magic number of 1,438.  And part of the reason that we’re in this pickle is because the sheriff ignored that ordinance.

Some of the others who participated in the original negotiations had harsher words to describe what they see as a betrayal: To increase the size of the jail at this moment would not only be a blatant disregard of the democratic process, it would be a capitulation to the kind of racialized fear-mongering that has held this city hostage for far too long, the activist Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition — one of whose leaders, Norris Henderson, served on the committee — wrote in a statement this week.

Most stakeholders seem to be in agreement that Gusman violated the law:

This unfortunate situation is the result of the Sheriff’s failure to adhere to the 2011 ordinance passed by the Council, Councilwoman Susan Guidry wrote in a statement.

It’s a shame that the Sheriff did not follow the law and failed to honor his commitment to construct a facility that could house all types of prisoners, Landrieu’s spokeswoman said.

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So the issue of jail size, which was already decided two years ago, now is back on the table since Gusman willfully disregarded the new limits.  He is an ultimate winner here, regardless of how the problem is solved, since he succeeded in getting the jail size issue back on the burner.  I’m rarely on the opposite side of a jail issue with Rafael Goyeneche. Usually we see more than eye to eye.  He thinks the city will be unsafe without additional beds. I can’t agree with that.

Rafael Goyeneche, Metropolitan Crime Commission

Rafael Goyeneche, Metropolitan Crime Commission

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~ by neworleansmusicman on September 17, 2013.

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