Not only did the sheriff’s office overspend, Quatrevaux said, but it also reported indirect costs for the program that couldn’t be verified or that were grossly miscalculated — including paying $140,000 a year in rent.
And it was Gusman, the landlord, charging an eye-popping rate to Gusman, the tenant, and the city paying the tab. That’s because the monitoring program rents space in Gusman’s Intake Processing Center.
Evaluators consulted a real estate quarterly report to determine that the Sheriff’s Office was overcharging the program for rent.
Instead of calculating the per-square-foot rent by the year, as is the industry standard, Gusman’s office was calculating it by month. So it charged 12 times as much as it should have, Quatrevaux’s office reported.
It charged $15 per square foot every month for the 782-square-foot office used by employees of the monitoring program. That’s $11,730 per month.
“At $179 per square foot, OPSO’s Intake Processing Center would be listed in the real estate quarterly report as ‘the highest priced office space in the New Orleans metropolitan area,’ according to the author of the quarterly report,” the Inspector General’s report reads.
Update: See also, this Lens op-ed by constitutional law professor Michael Avery Gusman's expensive operations are in no danger of resulting in constitutional treatment of his inmates any time soon.
The judge, on the other hand, is seriously constrained by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, and its provision that a federal court can respond to specific violations of inmate rights only with measures that are “narrowly drawn” and the “ least intrusive.”
The act specifically provides that a court may not order the release of prisoners unless overcrowding is the cause of constitutional violations and, even then, not until less severe remedies have been tried and have failed.
The evidence objectively supports the conclusion that the jail should be closed, but though it is seriously understaffed, the one problem it does not have is overcrowding. Gusman’s predecessor, ex-Sheriff Charles Foti, expanded the physical plant to house as many as 7,000 prisoners; it now has approximately 2,000, but even after extensive damage due to Hurricane Katrina, there’s room for another several hundred. Absent overcrowding, federal courts do not have the power to order prisoners released.
Unfortunately, the evidence at the hearing proved that the prison cannot be made constitutional within any reasonable period of time using the tools available to the court under the Prison Litigation Reform Act.