Outside Control Force Sought to Manage Troubled Jail In New Orleans

Department of JusticeThe Department of Justice has tasked a third party to take over operation of the troubled New Orleans jail, pointing out to the federal court in question that the Marlin Gusman, the city’s sheriff has been failing year after year to improve the dangerous living conditions of inmates. The lawyers of the inmates supported the government in the move holding Gusman in contempt for noncompliance and negligence, and agreeing to settlements for major overhauls in the jail’s structure and intergrity. The justice Department believes that the new leadership will change the overall look of the jail conditions, and lead to better rehabilitation.

The Justice Department made a statement in the court saying although it is beyond doubt that such a level of remodeling the system is an out of the ordinary solution, so is the amount of endless harm that seems to continue plaguing the jail. The office made the request stating that history of the ongoing case, the state of the consent judgment compliance and the dangerous living conditions for inmates show that the only way to keep everyone happy is receivership. While Gusman did not respond to initial mails, he has repeatedly stated since his election In 2004 that he has tried to make progress to jail reforms and blamed the city for its meager budget.

Outside Control Force Sought to Manage Troubled JailAlthough inmates were shifted to a new unit last September, stated a court-appointed monitor that violence had continued building up to an inmate’s suicide in March. Katie Schwartzmann, co-director of the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center and an attorney for inmates says she felt it was unfortunate that things had gotten to the point that an outside administration had to be brought in. Since the jail’s initial federal scrutiny which started in 2008, there has been over a dozen unnatural deaths, scandals and more than one lawsuit against it.  It was also clear that the clearly didn’t want to adhere to the consent that had been in effect 2012.

The administration of Mayor Mitch Landrieu meanwhile remains highly critical of Gusman’s management tactics. The city funded the jail and its planned upgrades, while Gusman operated it. Back in 2013, when the city had asked Lance Africk, a U.S. District Judge, to shift the jail in receivership, he had rejected the plea but had not ruled our receivership as a future remedy to the jail’s upkeep. The proposed receiver for the jail would have the complete authority to manage the jail as they see fit, including the ability to promote, discipline and fire employees, create contracts for jail services and decide how the allotted budget should be spent.

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Federal Judge Launches ‘Debtors’ Prison’ Lawsuit in New Orleans


The criminal court of New Orleans could become  an unconstitutional prison of debaters for imprisoning people who cannot afford to pay court fees, claims a federal judge who has recently cleared the way for a trial on the lawsuit. Late Thursday, U.S. District Judge Sarah S. Vance ruled that the lawsuit as belonging in the federal court, shooting down an attempt by state district judges to discredit the case and throw it out.  The current ruling is cleared for an August trial.

criminal 2The lawsuit was filed in September of last year, stating that many criminal court judges frequently used the threat of jail to collect court fees from poor people in New Orleans, some of which have even been thrown into jail. Similar lawsuits have been filed in several states, though this particular one casts the blame on the New Orleans Sheriff’s Office and the city government, naming them as defendants. The initial suit was filed by six plaintiffs who claim they were jailed unconstitutionally for owing court debts and want the court to rule that their constitutional rights were violated and a monetary  compensation was reasonable for the mistreatment they had suffered.

On the authority of a New Orleans attorney Bill Quigley, the city’s constitution does not condone judges throwing people into jail because of the poverty level of the city and stated that the monthly fee of approximately $100 for over several years could be more that what 27% of the New Orleans population who live under the poverty line can afford. He said a more feasible fee of $25 or the option for community service should be made an option.

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