Criminal Justice

Live blog: Hearing to determine cost of OPP consent decree, who should pay for it

This week, lawyers for the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, the city of New Orleans, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Southern Poverty Law Center are in federal court for another hearing on a consent decree to reform Orleans Parish Prison, which U.S. District Judge Lance Africk has called “an indelible stain on the community.”

The purpose of the hearing is to determine how much it will initially cost to implement the consent decree and who will pay for it. Expected in court along with Sheriff Marlin Gusman and his staff are Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin, representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and several medical and corrections experts.

Tuesday’s hearing starts at 8:30 a.m.; I’ll live-blog it here.

Gusman’s attorneys have estimated that the consent decree could add $22 million per year to the to the cost of running the jail. Under state law, the city is required to fund the operation of the jail.

However, a report done on behalf of the city put the annual cost at “no more than $7 million” for 2014.

In a hearing two weeks ago, Gusman’s budget was treated to close inspection by the city’s attorneys, who were determined to show that the jail’s conditions are the result of the sheriff’s misspending, not a lack of funding by the city. City attorney Harry Rosenberg noted several inconsistencies between Sheriff’s Office audits and its internal financial statements.

Rosenberg also revealed that Albert “Joey” Richard, Gusman’s auditor and one of his key witnesses in that hearing, has served as the sheriff’s campaign treasurer for years. That prompted New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux to file a complaint against Richard for a conflict of interest in these audits.

Another hearing set for Sept. 30 will determine future costs of the consent decree in light of a new $145 million jail facility scheduled to open next year.

In an effort to avoid paying for the consent decree, the city appealed Africk’s original judgment last week. Though that appeal could delay or ultimately obviate the implementation of the consent decree, the hearing before Africk apparently will proceed as planned.

Live blog, Tuesday


  • All parties agreed that staffing will be the major cost driver of the consent decree – for security, administration, and medical and mental health care.
  • David Parrish, a longtime jail warden in the Tampa Bay area, estimated that properly staffing the current facility would cost an additional $11.1 million annually at the current pay rate and $18.5 million if they were paid comparably to other correctional facilities in the region. However, when the new jail opens and some of the older facilities close, he estimated staffing would cost an additional $5.9 million annually at the current pay scale and $9.7 million at the recommended one.
  • Dr. Bruce Gage, a psychiatrist, testified that it would cost $1.8 million to provide adequate mental health care for the current jail population by the end of the year.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency allocated $254 million to the Sheriff’s Office and $67 million to the city for criminal justice facilities. The city does not want to dip into that money. So far, the sheriff has used $200 million, leaving $54 million. The city has used $17 million, leaving $50 million. This money can be used for capital projects that the Justice Department says are needed to make the jail safer. However, it cannot be used for operational expenses like deputy pay.

Live blog, Monday

Help us report this story     Report an error    
The Lens' donors and partners may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover.
About Sara Rahman

Sara Rahman is a third-year law student at New York University, where she serves as an editor of the New York University Review of Law and Social Change. She reports on criminal justice issues as an intern for The Lens. Originally from New Orleans, she graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School in 2005 and Yale University in 2009.

  • aitoiaita

    If Gusman says “$22 mill” we can all be assured it is closer to “$7 mill.”

  • Incorporeal Matter

    Gerald “Jerry” Ursin is of the same untrustworthy “ilk” as Marlin “Pseudo Sheriff” Gusman. It is believed he recently appointed a family member, to a position that no one knew was available. Moreover, he recently hired another retiree from NOPD. Said retiree was appointed to a supervisory position, above other deputies who have served the agency for decades. Nepotism and cronyism is rampant at OPSO. Hey, whatever the hornorable judge decides will not affect the OPSO. Just as any other infestation, OPSO must get rid of the nest of parasites and vectors.

  • Incorporeal Matter

    As the Marlin Gusman whatever became of the tens of thousands of dollars raised by Saving Seniors, Inc. This is a 501(c)(3) that Gusman established and used to raise funds for some obscure purpose. He sponsored two major fund raising events, yet no one seems to know what happened to the funds. Moreover, even though Marlin “Pseudo Sheriff” Gusman is an officer of this organization, he has never declared his involvement on any of his Tier-2 Personal Financial Statements, as required by state ethics law(s)/regulation(s). Why not?

  • Incorporeal Matter

    It is apparent that Jerry Ursin is not preared for this morning’s proceedings. His responses are far less than what is expected of a Chief Deputy. What good is this hearing if we do not hear truthful and correct answers?

  • benelux

    My experience with mclaughlin has been that he puts minimal effort into his work. His reports are bare-boned, not proof-read, and full of factual errors (names, dates, etc) I betcha he makes more than $9.69/hr.

  • benelux

    Ingleses kept his suicidal patients in squirrel cages (3×3) in St Tammany. On his watch at OPP, a man died in restraints because he was dehydrated after being strapped down for 42 hours.

  • benelux

    I may be wrong, but it appears that the dr.s who work at OPSCO have private practice, too. If this is the case, should they be paid a full-time salary for being on call 24 hours a day? Should they be restricted from practicing privately while holding a full-time public paid position? Again, I may be wrong.

  • Paul McMahon

    Sara – did Gusman submit to the court, the revised construction plans for the new jail facility? I think they were due by last Friday.

  • benelux

    There was an article somewhere stating that he did, in fact, submit the plans, but I can’t find it. It is mentioned in the article about Gusman’s press tour of the new facility. I won’t believe it till I see it, though.

  • Sara Rahman

    Hi Paul, I believe Gusman submitted the revised plans as instructed, but that he motioned for a protective order (that was unopposed and granted) so that they have only been made available to the attorneys for each party in this litigation.