A new $145 million Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) intake and inmate processing facility is taking shape as changes continue to be made to the jail's old facilities and inmate policies.
On Feb. 25, Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman announced that "Tent City," the temporary jail center created after Hurricane Katrina, was being torn down to make way for the new facility. Demolition on four of eight tents already has begun. Gusman said inmates have been relocated to the jail's other buildings.
"We're making a lot of progress," Gusman said. "The building was so doggone close you could spit on it."
In the meantime, Gusman, City Council members, city architects and monitors for federal consent decree litigation continue to grapple over how best to house inmates with "acute" mental illnesses and health problems.
The new jail has two buildings in its plan so far, according to Gusman and city officials, but neither of those buildings can accommodate those special needs inmates, the consent decree determined. One day later, the New Orleans City Council Criminal Justice Committee approved a motion to keep the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office's Temporary Detention Center open after the new facility opens. That motion now goes to the full council. The center most likely would be used to house those inmates with acute mental health issues while the city determines whether a third building is needed.
The Temporary Detention Center is one of several short-term housing facilities. Another, Templeman Phase V, had been considered for holding special needs inmates, but a federal judge decided the building was unsuitable, according to Susan W. McCampbell, a monitor for the OPP consent decree litigation.
City Councilwoman Susan Guidry said the new jail proposals don't include enough beds for inmates currently incarcerated. She indicated another motion might come soon to allow Templeman Phase V to remain open to accommodate the current population of 1,949 inmates.