Criminal Justice

Gusman slashes deputies' hours under new OPP work schedule

In an effort to trim costs, Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman instituted a new scheduling plan for deputies and staff at Orleans Parish Prison earlier this month.

The schedule, which was reflected in prison employees’ paychecks for this first time last week, means fewer overtime hours for deputies, whose starting pay for working in the Orleans Parish Prison is less than $10 an hour.

“The schedule standardizes deputy shifts, creating more predictable off-days and decreasing overtime,” said Gusman in a statement issued through the Ehrhardt Group public-relations company.

Gusman said the new model is similar to those in place at the Louisiana State Police and law-enforcement agencies nationwide.

Gusman added that since he closed the House of Detention earlier this month, he’s had to “operate a smaller jail facility with even fewer financial resources.”

Until recently, Gusman had been housing state and federal prisoners at jail buildings in the Orleans Parish Prison complex, earning a daily fee for each inmate. But in recent weeks, all most state and all federal inmates were transferred out of the parish jail, owing to what authorities said were unacceptable and even unconstitutional conditions. Correction: Not necessarily all state inmates were moved out of the Orleans Parish Prison.

The total daily jail population hovers around 2,600, Gusman said, substantially fewer than the 7,520 inmates being held at Orleans Parish Prison before Hurricane Katrina. The total number of available jail beds is 2,691

“We’re at a tipping point,” said Gusman of the teeming jail population during a recent pretrial detention symposium at Tulane University. “I don’t make decisions about who stays in jail and who doesn’t,” he said, “but jail beds are finite.”

Gusman has also had to address security-lapse issues that led to four inmate escapes in recent weeks.

Three escapees were able to break out of FEMA-funded temporary jails in the prison campus, while another escaped from a work detail in City Park.  All were recaptured, but not before questions were raised about security and staffing levels in and out of the Orleans Parish jails.

Understaffed jail facilities at Orleans Parish Prison also have animated recent lawsuits and critical reports from, respectively, the Southern Poverty Law Center and U.S. Department of Justice.

The Lens has received anonymous phone calls and other communications from sheriff’s deputies in recent weeks decrying the new schedule and warning of security repercussions and possible sick-outs. But Gusman said nothing has materialized.

“Excused absences on May 24 and 25 remain within the average of a normal day,” Gusman said.

Gusman slashed deputies’ hours but also claimed the new scheduling system would improve the deputy-to-inmate ratio. “There are fewer buildings housing inmates,” he said, which allowed him to consolidate the deputies in the active buildings even as he is cutting their hours.

“We are adjusting to these changes,” Gusman said, “and we are doing it while maintaining the same number of deputies.”

Gusman did not provide further details on the new scheduling system, other than to say it’s like the state police setup.

A state police official contacted by The Lens said troopers typically work seven days over a two-week period. They work a staggered 12-hour-shift schedule that puts them on duty for three days, followed by two days off, followed by two days on, and then three days off.

Gusman wouldn’t say whether he’d be reducing staff as the sprawling complex of jail and administrative buildings at Orleans Parish Prison is pared down to the new jail and the new kitchen/warehouse facility under construction along Perdido Street.

“I don’t anticipate staffing changes now,” Gusman said last month as the last of the state prisoners were bused from the House of Detention to state correctional facilities, “but there may be more in the future.”

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About Tom Gogola

Tom Gogola covered criminal justice for The Lens from February 2012 to May 2013. He is a veteran journalist and editor who has written on a range of subjects for many publications, including Newsday, New York, The Nation, and Maxim. Gogola was a 2011 winner of the Hillman Foundation Sidney Award, for his groundbreaking report in New York magazine detailing regulatory waste in the commercial fishing industry.

  • I. M.

    Marlin “Pseudo Sheriff” Gusman’s methods and excuses, are the epitome of moronisim!!

    We now know how Marlin Gusman plans to off-set the lost revenues, as a result of mismanagement of the incarcerated, violation of their rights and the subsequent loss of inmate population. He and his administration, plan to increase their “dehumanization” of the front line deputies. Despite the furor, neither Gusman nor his staff, have either made any announcement(s) or given any direction, to any of the file employees. However, we have learned (unofficially) from certain rank, the plan is to impose a mandatory pay cut! What is also dispicable, is despite the execution of this clandestine and caustic action, neither Marlin “Pseudo Sheriff” Gusman, nor his command staff, offers a single word of encouragement.

    Most deputies (commissioned or not) earn only $9.69 per hour. This excludes any STATE SUPPLEMENTAL PAY, which should not be considered part of the employee/employer pay package….. (it is supplemental from the STATE). We are currently working a 4/2 schedule. We work four days at 12-hours per day, and then are off for two days. It is a grinding pace, which often leaves deputies exhausted, inattentive and unfit for duty. According to certain sources – effective Friday 05 May 2012, all deputies will begin working a staggered schedule…. 3/3; 2/2; 2/3. That is three days on / three days off; two days on / two days off; two days on / three days off. This schedule effectively mandates a reduction in days worked and hours earned per pay period.

    Deputies are paid bi-weekly. Based on the new schedule, we will only earn 7-days pay per period, versus the 9.7-days currently. The net affect is a loss of approximately $344 per pay period; $688 per month and $8,256 per year. It was explained that Marlin Gusman authorized this action, in order to force a number of employees to quit. This will alleviate and/or avoid any unemployment liabilities and/or wrongful termination law suits. This is certainly one of the most “DEHUMANIZING” actions taken to date.

    Very few people can absorb a 30 to 33 percent pay cut. Already we believe there are many miscalculations, irregularities and inconstancies, with our payroll checks. Getting direct answers from anyone is literally impossible. Now, we must contend with being directly paid less money, while still risking our welfare and lives, working in an out-of control and barbaric environment. There has been talk of a unified job action, but nothing is solidified…. yet.

    We recognize that Marlin Gusman and his administration are not being forthright as they attempt to compensate for the loss inmate population. There is a system of cronyism, favoritism and nepotism at work:

    •Too many 25+ years Majors and Chiefs allowed remaining on payroll, while collecting retirement pay through DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Plan). Ask for the records of Chiefs Earl Weaver, Rudy Belilze and Lombard; Majors Spinney and Jenkins. These are only a few among severeral

    •Too many unqualified people receiving sudden promotions

    •Too many deputy recruits with 2+ years of service, that have not been POST certified. It is widely believed that Marlin Gusman is collecting state supplemental pay on their behalf.

    •Too many people with influential affiliations are manipulating and exploiting the department, for their own financial gain. Robert Gates is a commissioned deputy and an LPN. He is also the son-in-law of the now deceased former Chief Deputy William Short. Robert Gates was afforded personal use of a department issued, un-marked vehicle for the length of his employment. He recently was made to turn in the Chevy truck he’d been driving. However, it is my understanding that he is still receiving pay, under two separate classifications – as a medical staffer and as a deputy. If true – this is payroll FRAUD. Only because of his relationship to William Short, was/is he allowed doing this.

    •Some Deputies that work in areas such as courts, day reporting center and capias, are being paid to work 12-hour shifts, but routinely leave or go AWOL after 8-hours.

    This is just a sample, of the many problems that plague this agency. These are a few of the problems that Marlin Gusman pretends to not know about. But, now the lowest vertebra of the “camel’s back” is being broken, because of these and other problems.

    It is all so DEHUMANIZING!!

  • I.M.

    and of course the FBI and the DOJ is investigating the Marlin Gusman and family, Billy Short and family, John Sins and family, Daniel Lombard and Family, Earl Weaver, and several other high ranking officials working for Gusman. Federal indictments coming soon.

  • My pay check for 84 hours of work over 2 weeks was $285 and now that S.O.B. Sheriff is going to take my details away so his buddy Sal Sinsera can coordinate all details and charge deputies for the privilege of working them. Another contract the feds need to investigate.

    Guzman and his buddies getting rich on the backs of the deputies struggling to make ends meet!!!


  • The Injustice System of OPS)

    I wonder how it is possible for Sheriff Gusman to appoint Melvin Howard as the chair person over the Disciplinary Board when he is fraternizing (dating) one of his subordinates and the rules and regulations clearly states that if a supervisor is found to be dating a subordinate they will be terminated.