Orleans sheriff defends jail fire safety efforts

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The sheriff in New Orleans is defending his actions to improve fire safety at the city's jail complex.

Lawyers for inmates and the U.S. Department of Justice recently called for a contempt finding against Sheriff Marlin Gusman. They say problems with fire safety conditions at the Orleans Parish Prison violate a court-backed reform plan.

Court documents filed Thursday by Gusman's lawyers say most of the problems cited deal with conditions in two jail complex buildings that are more than 80 years old.

They also note that a new jail is nearing completion. And they say the sheriff has been working with city firefighters and Louisiana's fire marshal to address problems with maintenance of existing alarm and sprinkler systems.

A hearing on the jail's fire safety issue is set for Monday.

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