Zurik: Attorneys request state, federal investigations into St. Tammany Jail’s cramped holding cells

The St. Tammany Parish Jail in Covington seen in an undated file photo.
The St. Tammany Parish Jail in Covington seen in an undated file photo.(WVUE-TV)
Updated: Mar. 30, 2020 at 5:00 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Attorneys who previously filed a class-action lawsuit regarding the cramped holding cells in the St. Tammany Parish Jail are now seeking investigations into the practice on both the state and federal level.

The suit was filed last week by Devon Jacob along with attorneys Antonio Romanucci and Maria Glorioso in federal court in the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Jacob sent letters to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division and Louisiana Attorney General’s Office requesting investigations be opened into the practice exposed by FOX 8 News of the parish placing 15-30 inmates into the same bare holding cell.

In our investigation, we found inmates were routinely held in the holding cell with approximately twenty others for weeks at a time, which is against the State of Louisiana’s own minimum jail standards.

“It is a federal crime for one or more persons acting under color of law willfully to deprive or conspire to deprive another person of any right protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. (18 U.S.C. §§ 241, 242)," Jacob writes. "It is also unlawful for State or local law enforcement officers to engage in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives persons of rights protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States. (42 U.S.C. § 14141). Finally, it is unlawful for State and local law enforcement agencies that receive financial assistance from the Department of Justice to discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin. sex, and religion. (42 U.S.C. § 2000d, et seq. and 42 U.S.C. § 3789d(c)).”

Jacob requests the federal and state agencies to open a civil and criminal investigation into the sheriff’s office operation of the jail.

The St. Tammany Parish Jail was previously investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2012 where they cited the jail’s use of crowded jail cells.

“At issue then were many of the same unlawful practices that continue to date,” Jacob states in his request.

The attorneys ask investigation into the jail include the current sheriff, Randy Smith, past sheriff Jack Strain, past jail warden Greg Longino and current jail warden Lacey Kelley.

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