Federal receiver hearing for Orleans jail extended

Orleans jail receivership hearing extended

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A federal court hearing into the future of the Orleans jail wrapped up Friday, but will pick back up in 10 days. The presiding judge thought things would be over, but testimony has gone longer than most expected.

For the past two-and-a-half days, four consent decree monitors have critiqued the jail on everything from staffing to healthcare, with the chief monitor saying the sheriff and his staff "don't have a clue" as to how to run the jail.

"That couldn't be further from the truth," Sheriff Marlin Gusman said. "That's a derogatory insult."

Chief monitor Susan McCampbell said there is no plan to turn the jail around, seeming to side with attorneys for the Department of Justice and the MacArthur Foundation, who have asked that a receiver be brought in to take over jail operations.

In his first interview since the receiver hearings began, Gusman  said many of the accusations are overblown.

"I think clearly they are talking about things in the past," he said. "We need to talk about the future."

Gusman insists that progress is being made and the critiques from monitors aren't justified. Supporters of Gusman have turned out for all three days of the hearings. Metropolitan Crime Commission chief Rafael Goyeneche has also been a regular.

"I don't think if you're the sheriff you can't manage a facility with a 40 percent turnover," Goyeneche said. "You have to fix the funding side to be able to recruit and retain deputies to run that jail."

Others say the hearings have highlighted serious flaws, including a lockable shower door blamed for a recent jailhouse suicide.

"I guarantee you they would say nowhere in this country would they allow a locked door inside a shower," said jail reform advocate Norris Henderson.

"I think you will hear about the progress that we've made in more detail," said Gusman.

Judge Lance Africk has not indicated when or if he will rule in favor of the request to bring  in a federal receiver.

Gusman said incidents of violence are down in the new jail, though monitors have criticized lax reporting.

The prison receiver hearing is in recess until June 6.

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