Consent Decree monitors claim Orleans Sheriff only turning over 1 in 20 requested documents

Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 3:44 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Orleans Parish Sheriff Susan Hutson on Wednesday (Dec. 7) was ordered by a federal judge to respond to complaints from federal consent decree monitors and others about a lack of transparency.

A consent decree monitor told Chief Magistrate Judge Michael North they’re only receiving about 5% of the documents requested, one in every 20, which are necessary to properly monitor the sheriff’s office.

Monitors say they have not received reports on prison shakedowns, use of force incidents, and disciplinary investigations. In August, Hutson promised to post weekly jail incident reports on her office’s website, accessible to the public. In the 14 weeks since that pledge, the sheriff’s office has posted less than five of the weekly reports.

Hutson did not deny the monitor’s claims, saying her office is working on it through technical difficulties and a manpower shortage.

The sheriff’s attorney told Judge North it takes hundreds of man-hours to turn over requested information due to an outdated computer system.

“At 50% manpower, we had to rethink how we manage the manpower that we have in order to tackle the priorities of the sheriff,” OPSO Attorney Graham Bosworth said.

A federal judge, New Orleans City Council members, the Orleans Public Defenders, jail safety advocates, and relatives of inmates all have decried the lack of clear and timely reporting of disruptions and violent incidents inside the Orleans Justice Center jail.

Hutson’s office also has played favorites with local media, excluding Fox 8 for weeks from nearly all press releases and statements that it issued to other city news outlets.

City Council questions Orleans sheriff on jail safety, transparency concerns

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Last month, Councilman Joe Giarrusso said Hutson’s office froze the council from accessing jail data that is required to be released under city law, including inmate population numbers, demographic information, as well as the number of arrests and charges.

“I don’t understand the value of trying to hide things from the public that is very publically available,” Councilman Joe Giarrusso says.

An OPSO spokesperson said the agency did not violate city ordinance and blamed the council’s data team for not logging into the system for weeks.

Judge North says there is no excuse for not providing the requested information and said instead of trying to fight the technology, copy the information and present it to the monitors if necessary.

“We need assistance from the city,” Bosworth says. “The concerns the sheriff has remain valid.”

Getting jail information was never this much of a problem with the previous sheriff, the monitors said in court.

Judge North ordered Sheriff Hutson to remove unnecessary roadblocks and present a staffing plan immediately.

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