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Mayor Landrieu Wants Federal Monitor to Operate City Jail

By Eileen Fleming, WWNO
April 6, 2013

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is outlining his plan for state legislation to help the city. He’s asking the federal government — not the state — to help reform the troubled city jail.

Mayor Landrieu told a meeting of the Bureau of Governmental Research that he wants the state to help improve the Sewerage and Water Board, reassess firefighters pensions, and restructure the juvenile justice system. He is not asking the state for changing the funding structure for the jail, as some are suggesting. After his speech, he told reporters that he acknowledges the jail has major problems.

“I think it’s clear that the entire management practices over at the Orleans Parish Prison have just been terrible — and they’re broken down and they’re falling down.”

Landrieu is battling a consent decree to reform the jail, saying it’s too expensive and the city has little control over how the money is spent. A hearing is under way this week in federal court over the consent decree reached with lawyers representing inmates, the Justice Department and Sheriff Marlin Gusman. Landrieu says the city has to fight the plan that he estimates could cost $110 million over five years.

“The way the (state) Constitution is written, we have a very powerful sheriff’s association. The sheriffs and the parishes — and New Orleans is both a parish and a city — is the keeper of the jail. Under state law, the sheriff has the authority.”

Landrieu wants a federal receiver to be in charge of jail operations. It comes after the release in court of a video showing inmates with drugs and weapons inside the jail. Sheriff Gusman is set to testify at the hearing today.

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