By Matt Davis, The Lens staff writer
The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana wants Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman to justify his recent claim that a new city jail needs 3,200 beds, after a consultant hired by the city said city could easily make do with a 1,500-bed jail.
ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Marjorie Esman filed a five-page public records request with Gusman on Wednesday. It seeks all documents backing Gusman’s December claim that the jail needs to be 3,200 beds.
Gusman made the claim at a public crime forum in eastern New Orleans on Dec. 7.
“There ought to be another 1,800 beds so we can get to be about 3,200,” Gusman said.
Gusman’s claim contradicted work done by consultant James Austin, who was hired by Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s Criminal Justice Working Group. The group was formed by Landrieu to recommend an optimal size for the city’s prison and jail complex by Nov. 22, but it has yet to do so.
Working with information provided by Gusman, Austin projected that Gusman could meet all of the city’s reasonable needs with a 1,500-bed jail, if certain policy changes were made, such as reducing the number of state prisoners.
Esman wants to know how Gusman came to a different conclusion.
“He has never made reference to any documents that he might have,” Esman said. “I’d hope that he’s not saying that without any basis.”
Documents requested by the ACLU include:
“1. A study, report, or calculation generated by the Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff’s Office to (a) predict the Parish’s future prisoner population and/or (b) identify an optimal size for the Parish’s detention facilities.
2. A study, report, or calculation commissioned by the Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff’s
Office to (a) predict the Parish’s future prisoner population and/or (b) identify an optimal size for the Parish’s detention facilities. This request does not include any work
commissioned by the CJWG.
3. A description or summary of one or more studies, reports, or calculations responsive to requests 1 or 2 above.
4. Data or data compilations relied upon by one or more studies, reports, or calculations
responsive to requests 1 or 2 above.
Gusman’s office did not respond to a request for comment.