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New Orleans sheriff may seek to regain control of jail

2 years 3 months 3 weeks ago Wednesday, March 11 2020 Mar 11, 2020 March 11, 2020 4:43 AM March 11, 2020 in News
Source: Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Court records show that the sheriff in New Orleans may soon seek to regain full control of the city’s long-troubled jail.

More than three years ago, Sheriff Marlin Gusman agreed to cede authority over the jail to a “compliance director” approved by a federal judge.

The move came as advocates for jail inmates and the U.S. Justice Department complained of the slow pace of progress in implementing court-backed reforms at a jail noted for violence among inmates, the presence of illegal drugs and insufficient medical and mental health treatment. Gusman agreed to the reforms under a 2013 settlement agreement in a lawsuit over jail conditions.

On Tuesday, Gusman’s lawyers asked the judge in the case to schedule a status conference in preparation for a possible motion to terminate the position of compliance director.

A spokesman for Gusman declined immediate comment, as did an attorney for the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, which represents inmates.

Tuesday’s motion came weeks after court-appointed monitors issued a report saying there have been “positive trends” in efforts to improve conditions at the jail. But the report also said violence remains a problem at the lockup.

The January report said there had been a decrease in the amount of drug contraband smuggled into the jail. Drug overdoses had decreased, and there were no inmate deaths in 2019. There had been two inmate deaths in 2018 — a woman who died while detoxing and a man who died from a drug overdose. And previous years had seen periodic jail deaths including the suicide of a teenager.

Monitors are scheduled to return to the jail the week of March 16. It’s unclear when the status conference sought by Gusman’s lawyers will take place.

The last monitor’s report said challenges remain in a number of areas, including health and sanitation, prevention of contraband and curbing of violence among inmates.

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