In a move to resolve a federal class-action lawsuit against the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office (OPSO) and Sheriff Marlin Gusman over allegedly inhumane living conditions at Orleans Parish Prison, U.S. District Court Judge Lance Africk has ordered a draft of a preliminary consent decree due by Monday, Oct. 15, according to court documents.
The Southern Poverty Law Center filed the suit in April on behalf of all Orleans Parish Prison inmates. Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) joined as a plaintiff. More recently, the court granted a request from Gusman that the City of New Orleans — which controls the sheriff's budget — be named as a third-party defendant.
The federal government has been negotiating an agreement with the sheriff's office for more than a year, following an investigation that began in 2008. In 2009, DOJ released a findings letter describing brutal guard-on-inmate violence, staffing shortages leading to frequent inmate-on-inmate violence, and woefully inadequate access to health care. DOJ released another letter this year saying that OPSO had made little progress in remedying the problems.
— Charles Maldonado