When you enter the lobby of the Orleans Public Defender's Office, expect a bit of a wait, because receptionist Chastity Tillman will likely be busy on the phone.Or, you know, if you'll ever come out.
"The jail calls. We get them every second," Tillman says.
Jailed suspects call to get their court dates and to see a lawyer. But for those accused of the most serious of crimes, there will be no visit from an attorney; no help in negotiating a bond; no investigation into their alleged offense. Public defenders say they don't have the resources to handle the city's indigent caseload after a million-dollar budget shortfall.
So they are turning away some suspects who can't afford to pay for their own legal representation.
“The staff are not in control of the facility,” Susan McCampbell, who is overseeing a federally supervised jail reform effort, told U.S. District Judge Lance Africk.
“We had been very hopeful that when the new jail opened there would a decrease in the level of inmate-inmate violence and uses of force (by deputies) in the facility,” McCampbell said. “I’m here to tell you that has not happened.”