Criminal Justice

Sheriff asking to make the city a co-defendant in prison lawsuit

Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman is trying to spread anticipated financial pain at his jail complex to Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration.

Gusman’s attorneys filed papers Friday with U.S. District Judge Lance Africk seeking to include the city as a third-party defendant in an ongoing lawsuit alleging that Gusman has been running an unconstitutional, unsafe jail rife with brutality, understaffing and other problems.

On Friday, the city said that the move by Gusman was part of the plan all along.

“The city had already planned to become involved in this lawsuit,” Landrieu spokesman Ryan Berni said, “and this third-party complaint does not allege that the City is liable for damages sustained by the plaintiffs.”

The move comes days after the U.S. Department of Justice joined a Southern Poverty Law Center lawsuit against Gusman. In doing so, the federal government was able to secure the legal standing necessary to pursue and eventually implement a much-anticipated consent decree with the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Gusman has been huddling lately with Department of Justice officials to hash out an agreement that would supplant the one under which the jail is currently operating. That decree sets the daily per-prisoner rate the city pays Gusman.

The city told The Lens at the end of August that it had only recently entered into substantive negotiations with Gusman and the Department of Justice. The city hasn’t hired an outside attorney or consultants to move the Orleans Parish Prison consent decree along, as it did for similar federal negotiations regarding the New Orleans Police Department. The city is continuing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to several consultants and law firms since engaging with the Justice Department and NOPD two years ago.

The city is still negotiating the last details of the NOPD consent decree in federal court. Landrieu has said it will cost the city up to $55 million over the next five years.

Regarding the Sheriff’s Office, the city has tasked only two city attorneys to the negotiations, Richard Cortizas and Sharonda Williams, Landrieu spokesman Ryan Berni said.

City officials have already told The Lens that cost concerns didn’t animate their apparent reluctance to enter into substantive negotiations with Gusman and the Department of Justice until recently.

The rationale behind the move by Gusman’s attorney, T. Allen Usry, was simple enough: The city finances the jails under Gusman’s control.

Court watchers have recently suggested that the city bears responsibility for unconstitutional conditions if they arise because of a lack of funding at the jail.

In the court filing Friday, Gusman said that he supported most of the changes under consideration for Orleans Parish Prison, none of which is actually detailed in the lawsuits or any supplemental filings.

The solutions contained in the decree would aim to end a raft of problems identified in the Southern Poverty Law Center suit and two letters of finding issued by the Department of Justice since 2009. The latest letter of finding, from April 23 of this year, urges Gusman to sign off on the decree it sent him in November.

Gusman’s attorney noted in the court filing that the proposed remedies were costly:

“Implementation of many of those recommendations will require additional funding. The Sheriff has no significant source of revenue other than those he receives for housing detainees for the City. The Sheriff cannot responsibly make promises to the Court and the parties to take steps to change conditions at the jail unless and until he has financial resources to fulfill those commitments.”

The sprawling complex of jail buildings under Gusman’s control is funded on what is commonly called a “per diem” budgeting formula in which the city pays Gusman a flat daily rate for every prisoner. That system has often been decried by criminal-justice activists as providing a “perverse incentive” to lock up as many people as possible in the jail. Gusman has maintained that he doesn’t have any control over who winds up in the jail.

For prisoners locked up on local charges, the daily rate is $22.39. That amount is designated in a decades-old consent decree that was revised in 2002 to raise the rate by about $2.

Gusman said the amount doesn’t cover his expenses.

Ushering out the per-diem budget would appear to be an underlying, if unstated, goal in the lawsuit against Gusman.

City officials including Councilwoman Susan Guidry, chairwoman of the council’s Criminal Justice Committee, have been meeting to determine if the sheriff’s budget could become one set amount.

A series of emails obtained by The Lens indicates that per diem negotiations are indeed tied up in the anticipated Orleans Parish Prison consent decree.

In a March 22 email, Guidry wrote numerous city officials to thank them for attending the previous day’s per-diem meeting.

In that note, Guidry reminds participants of the action items from the meeting. One of them was directed at Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin, whose task was to “discuss status of City’s discussions with the DOJ re: OPP consent decree with Richard Cortizas.”

Guidry noted in a recent email to The Lens that the city and Gusman want a set budget amount dedicated to the Sheriff’s Office.

“I fully expect that the per diem system will end this year,” she wrote. “Nevertheless, there are still considerable differences of opinion between the City and Sheriff about the appropriate level of funding for his office.”


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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.

  • OPSO Deputy 1

    The Sheriff should not agree to allow the city to control his budget. The sheriff in Orleans Parish should be funded like every other sheriff in the state by a dedicated milage that is controlled solely by the Sheriff and a answerable to the voters.

  • Truth Teller

    I don’t think the city are anymore tax payers need to give Gusman another dollar, it’s poor management and stealing is what put him in this situation anyway. When foti ran the jail we didn’t have this problem. This is Gusmans problem the city funds the money and he runs the jail, he is always wining it’s never his fault he always try and put the blame on everyone else, it’s called taking resposibility for your wrong doing, stealing and poor management. Now he want to put it on Mayor Landrieu adminstration at first it was on the government for sensationalizing. He want to bring everyone else down because he is Lower Class and about to be indicted. Mayor Landrieu distance yourself from this crook and criminal. He will try and bring everyone else down with him. The sheriff don’t need to control nothing else but his time he will spend in the feds, he have put people lives and careers in the toilet, since he have been sheriff we are bankrupt, broke, embarassed, and disgraced in the uniform. He have had people lives in his hand and since he been in office over 50 people has died to his neglegence and that including the ones he tried to cover up after Katrina, it is a disgrace get his arrogant, self centered dumb ass out of here. INDICTMENT INDICTMENT INDICTMENT… I can’t wait.

  • benelux

    Truth Teller: I want to know about after Katrina. We all know people died in there. Guards and inmates said there were bodies floating inside…How did he get away with saying no one died? And how many do think died? I think he just threw them outside the jail and didn’t claim them. I have been wondering about this for years.

  • Incorporeal Matter

    Marlon “Pseudo Sheriff” Gusman is seeking to co-op the expenses, while he monopolizes the profits… YES PROFITS. OPSO earns hundreds-of-thousands, if not millions of dollars from its inmate population. The so-called community service division provides community services… at a price. Everything from inmate phone calls and commissary orders to sick calls, all contribute to the bottom line. These obvious revenue centers are distinct and separate, from the more nefarious income sources.

    It has been widely held that OPSO routinely commits payroll fraud, by deliberately mis-calculating overtime pay for many of its deputies. It is firmly believed that there are several “Phantom” entities on the scroll of not only departmental payroll, but also on the reports submitted to the state of Louisiana, for collecting Louisiana Deputy State Supplemental pay. It is undeniable that OPSO under Marlin “Pseudo Sheriff” Gusman has instituted austerity measures that have severely hurt security division deputies, jeopardizes inmate welfare and obliterates the tenants of corrections. Nothing is working the way it could… the way it should!

    Violence… continues! Perilous understaffing… continues! Deprivation of inmates Constitutional Rights… continues! Negligent care… continues! Indifference towards Deputies safety… continues! Escape attempts from the tents… continues. Since the last escape, there has been no effort, to substantially increase security measures at the tents. The last escapee is still AT-LARGE. All the “isms”… continues!

    WE implore the Federal Government to TAKE CONTROL sooner than later. We must DISCONTINUE, what has been allowed too long to continue!!!

  • Truth Teller

    I agree with you Incorporeal Matter, let’s not forget how the inmates in the HOD building would leave out at night go to the French Quarters and come back at a certain time, they had guns, knives, drugs and cell phones in there, the safety of the depuities and other inmates is at risk everyday. For overtime you are required to work over 88 hours to receive your pay which is against the law, the law requires anything over 80 hours overtime pay. They still have one deputy on a tier, people who get suspended by opso still have there pay and commision pay going into the pocket of Col. Juliet Langham and thats how she was able to afford her Italy hideout by stealing with Marlin Gusman, you have to keep this crook around after she retired to keep her manipulating the numbers for the state and federal audits. Community service is ran by Major Gerard Spinney, he steals everything that is not nailed down, everyone have there hands in the pot. Clean house and have a new beginning thats the only way we can get the sheriff department back running out of the gutter. When you have Gutter Politics like Marlin Gusman in office we will keep on having all of the implorible conditions and mishaps, hopefully no more deaths at his expense, I do think he needs to be charged for every last one of them, they were someones child and love one that is horrible and no justice, the feds need to look into that and how they try to clean everything up like those rapes, SOD abuse, inmate on inmate violence, deputy on inmate violence, SOD deputy Jerry Martin selling drugs in his uniform, Sod Keino Colemans beating on his girlfriend, and investigate COL. Michael Laughlin “aka” The Clean Up Man for lieing to the government and cleaning up all those reports, manipulating the system him and Deputy Chief Gerald Ursin, take him down to, how you think he got his rank don’t let him get off either. Michael Laughlin and Ursin did the hearing at Conchetta full of lies check into it. TAKE THEM ALL DOWN. CROOOKS…

  • FU

    dont think all dis BS was going on before this politician became sheriff! Whats up with all these lucrative contracts givin out under both administrations while they pay the majority of the people jack …..
    whose dik do some of these vendors have to suk to get the $$ they gettin?….

  • benelux

    Truth Teller: WOW!!!!!!

  • benelux

    Let me get this straight….inmates were leaving their tiers at night to go out and party? Langham has a home in Italy? Jerry Martin selling drugs IN HIS UNIFORM? McLaughlin lying to the federal govt, families of inmates who have died, etc…pretty much anyone? ETC….. I know the Feds probably watch this page just like I do, waiting for more juicy details. You have given me more hope than I have had in years that justice will be served.

    BTW, Truth Teller, you are very right….those inmates who died were someone’s child or loved one. One of those deaths wrecked me. That’s why I’m here. Thank you.

  • OPSO Deputy 1

    Truth Teller,

    The point I was attempting to make is that if the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office recieves all funding through a dedicated millage the opportuity to point the finger at other officials is eliminated. A dedicated millage would hold the current and future sheriffs MORE accountable without the ability to fingerpoint!

  • ID

    the sheriffs “control” of the funds is the problem!
    dont make a bit of difference where the funding comes from
    , its how they spend the funds and all the lucrative contracts given and bid rigging,etc etc etc etc

  • Truth Teller

    I understand your point, but like I.D. said no sheriff need to have control over the money because the cycle of corrupt politicians will continue to be greedy as long as no one is watching over them, the government need to have more control over the sheriff department and get the consent decree done. They can monitor the department and no one will have to point fingers at anyone, because they won’t be stealing and everything will have to be approved by the monitor first. There will be no favoritism are politics involved, just hard working people getting the promotions and pay they need because they worked hard and deserved it, not because he knew Marlin so he get promoted with no experience thats why the department is in the gutter, if you hire people that don’t know what they are doing how do you expect the department to get better. Thats Dumb…

  • Not The Truth Teller

    Honestly the the truth teller sounds like someone who is stuck in a dead in job who was skipped over for a promotion are didn’t get a raise. If its that bad quit, but more than likely you can’t find another job. An where is the proof show me paperwork an I would believe you. How can I believe anything you say an you can’t spell lying. If you say they are doing what they are doing where is the proof show me the proof cause if its true they would be in jail. I’m starting to wonder if you trying to get heat off of you for some reason. Are you bringing in cell phones an drugs?


    At the truth teller just giving you heads up, you think your hiding by. Posting lies and foolish just know you will always be in the potion that your in, A BITTER DEPUTY. Lmao..

  • Truth Teller

    At opso and at not the truth teller, both of you must be sucking Marlins cock, bitter no just feel sorry for the people he have messed over. And to say if you really want to know I am a warden with high rank.

  • Truth Teller

    At opcso and not the truth teller, the truth hurts I see that cock your sucking is paying off for you. I never had to bring anything in the jails that was for you all and the rest of the sod division. You asked to see my paperwork SORRY to let you know the feds got it already, so when you go to jail we will see who will be bitter then and you will have a whole lot of tiers to go and suck cock on. A note to you I spell well, it was just a typo don’t try and change the subject at hand the word is out, THE TRUTH HURTS, so I know your name was mentioned on one of these blogs, you sound bitter… I’ll still have my job can you say the same. COCK SUCKERRRRRRR… Your dumb ass spelled position wrong. Huh…

  • Truth Teller


  • Bro Keith “X” Hudson

    First of all, all of ya’ll are missing the whole point here. All crooks in the New Orleans area, are protected by entities that you never knew were doing this. For example, any suit filed against the Sheriff’s Office/D.A.’s Office/NOPD, or any infamous “Career Criminal: Politricker” such as Gusman, is protected, and they understand this protection. And whenever you sue, 90% cases will be alotted to Lance Africk!!! Why? Because when he was a Magistrate, he protected Harry Connick for (30) years, misrepresenting the law: D.A.s are immuned from civil right suits, which is not true. My case, proved that Hudson-v-Hughes, et al, 1998, which John Thompson used to get to the U.S. Supreme Court, but he lost, because his lawyers, deviated from the issues. This same Judge Africk, protected Charles Foti, from suits. None of these people are immuned from suits. But, when you got the ACLU and others who’ve neglected their obligations, these crooks can get away with what’s taking place at OPP! Stop pointing fingers and Gusman, and point the fingers at the people PROTECTING this criminal culture!!! The U.S. Attorney’s General’s Office/FBI, and the U.S. District Court, as well as those idiots in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit!!

  • Not The Truth Teller

    Truth teller if you are a warden with high rank then more than likely you are involved with the corruption that’s going on in the jail facility. That means you have been there quite along time so that must mean you were one of the employees that were messed over right? An as I can tell by your professionalism you are a horrible rank. You really show why you are in such a good position learn to come up with better vocabulary. Cause the cocking sucking is so unprofessional. Have a blessed day 🙂 give us some more information so we can see just how smart an brilliant you are. Just so you know I was being sarcastic!!!

  • Truth Teller

    Watch The News!!! I have faith in Jim Lettens Office they always do a awesome job. If you seem to think that I would entertain you, you are sadly mistaken. Unlike other people I care about people lives and careers im not into politics, just respect and doing my job. You wasn’t being sarcastic. Cock Sucker… P.S. My professionalism is just like yours… You Have A Blessed Day… 🙂

  • Truth Teller

    Another Inmate escaped today. WOW… One deputy on a tier… No Order. Do you even care Gusman? Recall this guy.

  • benelux

    Maybe Gusman is taking notes and planning his escape.

  • benelux

    Who’s in charge of the ankle monitoring alerts?

  • OPSO Deputy

    Jerry Ursin was the person who set up the program. Now he’s the chief deputy. Ursin set up the program and hand picked the deputies who work in the program.

  • Truth Teller

    The program was dummed from the beginning because Ursin had a hand in it. Having Gusman Sheriff and Ursin second in command that is why the whole department is messed up. Ursin and Gusman lack common sense and this is the mess we get with poor leadership. We have been in danger working at OPSO since Gusman became Sheriff, now the public is put in danger from these two crooks. WOW PLEASE RECALL HIM.