In a rare status conference held in open court Wednesday, the monitor overseeing reforms at Orleans Parish Prison said that Sheriff Marlin Gusman has failed to meet most of his deadlines.
There are 171 separate requirements that must be met in order to bring the jail into compliance with the U.S. Constitution. They range from new policies and training on the use of force to bilingual staff members.
Deadlines have passed for 65 of them; the Sheriff’s Office has failed to meet 62. Most of them were due in February and April.
Of all the deadlines so far, “the sheriff has only complied with three,” consent decree monitor Susan McCampbell said Wednesday morning.
Those items, McCampbell said, are:
Hiring a corrections administrator to review the jail’s security and staffing. The deadline was April 21; Michael Tidwell was hired in November.
Hiring a compliance coordinator to act as a liaison between the court monitor, the Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Department of Justice and attorneys representing the inmates. The consent decree didn’t set a deadline, but McCampbell asked this to be done by March 21. The Sheriff’s Office hired attorney Tracie Washington this month.
Submitting a plan with the minimum staff needed to ensure prisoner and staff safety. Due and delivered on Jan. 21.
For everything else, McCampbell said, Gusman’s office was “at best in partial compliance” or noncompliance. Two areas in which he’s behind:
Creating policies and training procedures for guards’ use of force
Setting up systems to report inmate violence and injury, as well as allegations of staff misconduct
Reached by email after the hearing, McCampbell declined to comment further, noting that the terms of her position prohibit her from speaking to the media. Sheriff’s Office spokesman Phil Stelly did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
U.S. District Judge Lance Africk asked McCampbell if she believes the sheriff is working toward compliance on the deficient items.
“I believe he is,” she said. “But I don’t believe he has sufficient staffing” to correct many of the remaining problems.
Staffing, and how to pay for it, remains the major issue.
In a March court filing, the Justice Department and attorneys for inmates said Gusman will need at least $10 million more annually from the city to hire the hundreds of employees he says he needs to properly implement reforms.
The city provided just $2 million in new funding in this year’s budget and $1.9 million in interim funding last year. In a partial settlement filed in April, Gusman agreed to use what remains of that money to hire 93 new deputies by the end of the year.
Gusman also has missed deadlines outlined in that in that agreement. For instance, it required the Sheriff’s Office to hire a consultant to “develop pay structures, develop and/or refine job descriptions, organize the human resources functions, and assist in hiring a human resources director” by May 16.
Sheriff’s Office attorney Blake Arcuri told Africk that the office has only recently received a proposal for that work. Arcuri said the proposal included a detailed breakdown of expenses, but he didn’t say who had submitted it or how much it would cost. The Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to The Lens’ request for the proposal.