Prison watchdogs report 9 stabbings in past 2 weeks

Shedrick Smith's family and friends (FOX 8 photo)
Shedrick Smith's family and friends (FOX 8 photo)

After an extremely violent week in Orleans Parish Prison, angry relatives of a inmate who was stabbed went to prison offices Tuesday in a search for the truth.

Prison reform advocates say in spite of a federal court order, change is slow in coming and a rash of recent stabbings in the OPP complex is creating concern for reform advocates and victims' families.

More than a dozen relatives of inmate Shedrick Smith went to OPP to demand answers.

"We're running around, went from one office to another office," said Dwayne Smith, the inmate's cousin.

They heard a FOX 8 report of a prison stabbing and became concerned after learning that Shedrick Smith was brought to University Hospital on Sunday without their knowledge.

"I spent two hours at the hospital. They wouldn't give me any information," said friend Carisa Calvin.

"Authorities say he was stabbed over the weekend, and then another authority said he was stabbed and brought to the hospital yesterday, so there's conflicting stories," Dwayne Smith said.

Shedrick Smith wasn't the only victim. The NOPD reported another stabbing victim Monday at 6:38 p.m., with a victim brought to University Hospital. There was no word on his condition.

"Unfortunately in the last couple of weeks we've had a number of reports of stabbings," said Katie Schwartzmann with the MacArthur Justice Center. "We've learned of nine in the past two weeks."

Five months after a consent decree was approved by a federal judge, reformers say the violence continues.

"I do know if I had a loved in the jail, I'd be extremely concerned," said Schwartzmann.

The Smith family worries that Smith may have been stabbed by a fellow gang member, who was allowed access by a guard.

"The same gang that he ran the streets with are supposedly the same ones who stabbed him," said Smith.

Prison officials wouldn't confirm that report, but did confirm that Smith was taken to the hospital for treatment of stab wounds in the head, hand and arm, and is now back in jail.

"It's a sense of relief, but also a sad end of frustration," said Dwayne Smith.

"Problems and non-involved deputies won't change with the new jail. There needs to be a culture shift," said Schwartzmann.

Prison reform advocates say since the implementation of the consent decree, they've been allowed to send three investigators inside the jail every day to investigate wrongdoing. They say they thought things would be a lot better than they are right now.

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