ORLEANS PARISH—One year after the U.S. Department of Justice notified Sheriff Marlin Gusman of multiple Constitutional violations at Orleans Parish Prison, the Sheriff remains silent about what, if any, changes he has made to comply with Justice Department orders.
On September 11, 2009, the Justice Department sent Sheriff Gusman a letter, based on an inquiry made at the request of the ACLU, outlining inadequate supervision of staff and of prisoners, inadequate medical screening, unsanitary conditions including overflowing toilets and moldy food service utensils, overcrowding, and improper classification of inmates. Sheriff Gusman was given a deadline of October 30, 2009 to remedy these deficiencies.
"Sheriff Gusman has refused to tell the public what, if anything, he has done to comply with the Justice Department's deadline," said Marjorie R. Esman, ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director. "While he maintains his secrecy, we know that several people have died in the past year at his prison, which means that problems still remain. The public has the right to know whether Sheriff Gusman is in compliance with orders from the federal government, and he refuses to say."
While maintaining his silence about the Justice Department inquiry, Sheriff Gusman seeks to build a new jail that would, per capita, be the largest jail in the country with the capacity to house one of 60 New Orleans residents. Esman continued: "We need a new jail, but we know that Sheriff Gusman cannot protect the 3,200 human beings already in his custody. He wants to incarcerate a higher rate of the population than anyone else in the United States, but he won't tell us whether he's still in violation of the Constitution. New Orleans residents have the right to know that their sheriff is obeying the law before shelling out millions of dollars for a new jail."
Today the ACLU of Louisiana sent a follow-up letter to the Justice Department asking them to update the people of New Orleans on the status of their investigation, and to finally take action to ensure that the elected Sheriff meets his Constitutional obligations. "Enough is enough," said Esman. "It's been a year, nobody will give the public any information, but we know that deaths continue, and we are entitled to some answers."
A copy of the ACLU's letter to the Justice Department can be found at: