In September, when Sheriff Marlin Gusman opened the city’s new $150 million jail, he declared the notorious Orleans Parish Prison to be “closed forever.”So the brand new building didn't solve the problem. That's disappointing. Thought for a second there we might not be throwing bad money at something. Gusman, as usual, says the problem is he's going to need more money. The jail is indeed understaffed and the staff are indeed underpaid. But there's a longstanding dispute over who is responsible for resolving that. Gusman's authority derives from the state while his budget comes from the city and there's a permanent fight over who decides who pays who for what and... well, it's a whole thing, really.
But much of the dysfunction that defined OPP has cropped up in the newly opened Orleans Justice Center, where an “absolutely unacceptable” level of violence has already taken hold, a team of outside corrections experts reported Tuesday.
“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.”
The 1,438-bed lockup is not only severely understaffed, she added, but the deputies Gusman has managed to retain “do not know how to run” the jail.
Gusman's people brought this up again at the hearing.
The Sheriff’s Office has blamed Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration for its staffing crisis, saying it can’t recruit new hires because the city refuses to raise deputy pay.That's disappointing also. We had been led to believe Mitch and Marlin had kissed and made up.
“Until that happens, we believe we’re going to continue to experience these high turnover rates,” said Blake Arcuri, a Gusman attorney. “We cannot compete with law enforcement agencies in this region right now.”
McCampbell, however, said salary is only one of many reasons deputies are quitting. “My experience tells me that the wrong people were hired,” she said.