NEW ORLEANS, LA – Today, the City of New Orleans formally filed to place a federal receiver in control of all administrative, correctional and financial aspects of the operations of Orleans Parish Prison (“OPP”) and related facilities. The filing follows a week of testimony and new evidence detailing the mismanagement of the prison, as part of Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office consent decree fairness hearings. Experts concluded that there were many areas and problems that could be fixed quickly, easily, or cheaply, and that the Sheriff’s Office was not meeting the standards set forth in the already existing consent decrees for the jail.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu said, “The Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office has been unsuccessful at reforming the jail. It gets clearer every day that the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office is not keeping the prison secure and our city safe. This is about management, not money. Last week, expert after expert talked about mismanagement and said this was one of the worst run jails in the country. That is why I am asking for receivership so a corrections expert can run the jail in a safe, secure and fiscally responsible way.”
Landrieu continued, “The people of the city are investing over $225 million to build new prison facilities and over $30 million each year in taxpayer money to operate the jail. I cannot in good conscience cut vital services or raise taxes to put even more money into the operations of an office where waste, fraud, and abuse run rampant. Despite existing consent decrees, improvements have not been made, and given the latest evidence and testimony, it is essential that a receiver be installed to implement reforms at the jail.”
In receivership, the position of Sheriff remains filled, but all administrative, correctional and financial aspects of the operations of Orleans Parish Prison (“OPP”) and related– would be made by a court-appointed corrections expert. Under the laws of the State of Louisiana, the Sheriff is an independently elected position and has unfettered discretion to oversee the operations of the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office. Federal courts have appointed receivers to manage all or a part of severely troubled prison systems, as recently as 2006.
Prison litigation that prompted existing consent decrees date back 44 years. The DOJ began its most recent investigations of the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office in February 2008, issuing a comprehensive findings report in September 2009, with an emergency update to its findings in April 2012 after conditions had not improved. Federal law enforcement agencies removed their inmates from the prison last summer. However, in December 2012, DOJ announced that it had reached a proposed consent decree with plaintiff Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and) Sheriff Marlin Gusman. Gusman has nonetheless denied much of what has been included in DOJ reports and maintains that the jail is run well.
The City has questioned how spending priorities are made, noting that the Sheriff’s Office funds mounted units with horses, motorcycle units, and boats that can conduct search and rescue missions. Fuel costs, food and supply costs, and legal fee arrangements have also been questioned. The Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office is currently building an $81.5 million kitchen and warehouse building that will be able to serve 25,000 meals per day to 8,333 inmates, nearly 5-times the number of prisoners the city puts in the Sheriff’s custody.
Click here for the official court filing.
Motion for receiver