by Matt Davis
[Post updated, 9/2/10]
A group of like-minded criminal justice reform advocates is soliciting donations to buy a full-page ad in the Times Picayune next week to protest Sheriff Marlin Gusman's plan to expand the Orleans Parish jail.
IS THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS BUILDING AN EVEN BIGGER PUBLIC SAFETY FAILURE?
Marlin Gusman, the Orleans Parish Sheriff, wants to build a 5,800-bed jail to replace the present 3,500-bed jail. More than three quarters of the people in the Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) are being held for minor, non-violent offenses; jailing more people for minor, non-violent offenses does not protect the public or make our city safe.
We consistently have one of the highest rates of violent crime and murder in the nation, despite incarcerating more people per capita than any other city in the U.S. Other cities have built smaller jails while reducing violent crime. Why cant we?
THE CITY OF NEW ORLEANS NEEDS TO INVEST IN PUBLIC SAFETY, NOT JAILING MORE PEOPLE
FAR TOO BIG
If our jail were consistent with the national average, we would have 850 prisoners, not 5,800 prisoners. Jefferson Parish has 443,000 people; its jail has 902 people. Orleans Parish has 331,000 people; Orleans Parish Prison has 3,500 people. If our neighbors can spend their money more effectively, why cant we?
WE NEED A SMALLER JAIL
FAR TOO EXPENSIVE
We spend $22.39 each day to incarcerate a person in the Orleans parish jail; we spend an additional $6 million each year on medical care and staffing costs.
The Department of Justice has determined that conditions in the jail violate federally protected civil rights; the city will have to spend even more money to comply with minimal standards.
Cheaper alternatives exist, such as diversion and treatment programs that are proven more effective and cost less than half the price of a day in jail.
We cannot afford to spend even more of our scarce tax dollars on incarcerating people for minor, nonviolent offenses.
HOW DO YOU WANT THE CITY TO SPEND YOUR MONEY?
Every dollar that it takes to operate the jail comes from taxpayers.
The city spends at least $20 million a year operating the current facility.
There have been 7 deaths in the jail this year alone. The failure to provide adequate care and safety for prisoners frequently results in lawsuits, financial hardships and emotional loss for the families of those who have died and additional costs to taxpayers; the bigger the jail, the bigger the liability.
WE WANT THE CITY TO SPEND OUR MONEY ON THESE OTHER THINGS
Thats why each of us has contributed $22.39one days price of incarceration in the City of New Orleans to the cost of this ad telling the Mayor and City Council not to build a massive new jail but to build a smaller, safer, right-sized jail.
To make your voice heard, please sign up and call Mayor Landrieu and your City Councilmembers:
Mitchell J. Landrieu, Mayor: 504-658-4900
Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson, At-Large: 658-1070
Arnie Fielkow, At-Large: 658-1060
Susan G. Guidry, A: 658-1010
Stacy Head, B: 658-1020
Kristin Gisleson Palmer, C: 658-1030
Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, D: 658-1040
Jon D. Johnson, E: 658-1050
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Marc Ehrhardt, 504.558.1845, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sheriff Marlin Gusman Asserts the Need for a
Smaller, Safer Jail Complex
Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana wants to convince New Orleans that it needs a jail with 2,500 fewer inmates than were in custody last night.
NEW ORLEANS Sept. 2, 2010 Following is a statement from Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman regarding the size and design of the new Orleans Parish
Last night, more than 3,291 inmates were housed in Orleans Parish Sheriffs Office facilities, spread out over 5+ city blocks in temporary tents or rehabbed buildings. In 2009, the Sheriffs Office processed more than 63,000 individuals who were arrested by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
The Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana wants to fool the people of New Orleans into believing that our city needs a jail that can house 2,500 fewer inmates than were in jail last night.
The new jail complex is not being increased in size, it is being decreased. The proposal is for half of the pre-Katrina capacity -- more than 3,000 less beds than existed before Katrina under a prior administration. Therefore, all of the projections from the Juvenile Justice Project and percentages relative to our population are wrong.
This special interest groups willingness to allow the current inmate housing situation to continue, while pursuing its own agenda, is short-sighted and a threat to public safety.
Our new jail facilities will mean that New Orleans is a safer city. It will be cost efficient, be built on a smaller footprint than the current facilities encompass, and will feature the technology needed to create a secure jail complex.
However, demanding an artificially small facility just to satisfy a quest for national comparisons, in other words to wish New Orleans to be safer, is unrealistic and it puts the publics safety at risk.
Furthermore, our records do track and account for the various charges lodged against inmates but it is the New Orleans Police Department and not the Sheriffs Office who selects persons for arrest and incarceration. We simply exercise care, custody and control.
There are specific reasons for designing the jail complex in the fashion we presented, and all of them are justified to improve public safety.
Our new facilities meet the standards for public safety set by the American Correctional Association. They were designed by national experts in the field, who considered every aspect of preferred jail design relative to safety of the community, inmates, visitors and deputies. These advancements include best practice jail design for cell sizes, medical facilities and a single, secure access for the processing of arrested individuals that directs traffic away from the surrounding residences.
The City of New Orleans is contributing no funding for these improvements. They are all part of FEMA reimbursements from Hurricane Katrina, along with funding from the Law Enforcement District.
Even before and since Katrinas floods, the current facilities are spread out over too wide an area. By any communitys standards, they are inadequate and strain our human and capital resources. The Sheriffs Office has eight facilities, including temporary tents. We have to deploy our deputies in less than desirable situations because of the size, number and condition of the facilities.
CHART OUTLINING OPSO BED SPACE
Number of Beds
Facility Pre-Katrina Current New Jail Complex
Orleans Parish Prison 831 831 831
Conchetta 408 408 Converted to work release facility
House of Detention 841 841 0 Closed or demolished
Community Correctional Center 1,280 0 0 Closed or demolished
South White Street 288 288 0 Demolished
Temporary Detention Facility (TNT) 0 704 0 Closed
Templeman I 898 0 Demolished 0
Templeman II 936 0 Demolished 0
Templeman III 1,204 0 Demolished 0
Templeman IV 234 0 Demolished 0
Templeman V 316 316 Converted to psychiatric treatment facility
Broad St. Work Release 164 164 164
School 164 0 0
Kitchen/Warehouse 0 0 0
Housing Tower 1 with new Intake 0 0 1,438
Housing Tower 2 0 0 1,834
TOTAL BEDS 7,564 3,552 4,267
Note The OPSO will construct 400 temporary inmate beds for use during the construction period. These beds will be removed following the completion of construction and are not included in the new jail complex bed totals. The Conchetta facility currently used to house 408 inmates will be converted into a work release facility following construction of the new jail complex. In addition, plans call for Templeman V to be converted to a psychiatric treatment facility. Prisoners housed in Templeman V will shift to the new housing towers in the jail complex, once construction is complete.